KARACHI: Polling on the NA-249 Karachi West constituency was held on Thursday amid tight security under the supervision of 2,800 policemen and 1,100 Rangers personnel while shooters were also posted in the surrounding areas of sensitive polling stations for the by-election. Aerial surveillance of the area was also carried out by officials.

The polling took place peacefully as no untoward incident was reported from any area. However, at some places, tension was reported as workers of rival parties exchanged heated arguments with one another, officials said.

“The situation was very tense and the contesting parties were very charged but the police and other LEAs managed to keep the situation cool,” said Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon. “We tried to implement a zero-tolerance policy, especially for display or use of force.”

The police chief said that till late in the evening no untoward incident had been reported.

Candidates of various parties make complaints, trade allegations

Witnesses said that tension and chaos was reported at polling stations 142 and 143 in Saeedabad, where workers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and the Pak Sarzameen Party clashed.

There were 30 candidates contesting the by-poll on the National Assembly seat that had fallen vacant after resignation of federal minister Faisal Vawda.

While the regional election commissioner of Karachi/district returning officer for the by-election, Syed Nadeem Haider, ordered the expulsion of lawmakers from the constituency, representatives of different parties made complaints about a host of issues.

RO’s orders

The returning officer ordered the law enforcement agencies to expel PTI MPA Firdous Shamim Naqvi as he was “visiting the constituency along with workers and sufficient people, creating inconvenience for the voters to exercise their right of vote in a peaceful manner”.

The RO also ordered the expulsion of another PTI MPA, Bilal Ghaffar, for identical reasons.

Mr Haider asked all lawmakers not to visit the constituency and refrain from indulging in election campaigns for anyone and warned of strict disciplinary action against the violators irrespective of their political affiliation.

Complaints/reactions

PPP central election cell in-charge Taj Haider complained that about 50 voters were not being allowed to cast their ballots by the police at the A-1 School polling station.

The PPP leader in a letter to the chief election commissioner also said that they had received “serious complaints from polling station 225 TCF School where lady voters were being forced to put a stamp on the election symbol (bat) of PTI candidate”.

Taj Haider also asked the commissioner to take notice of the presence of Firdous Shamim Naqvi in the constituency.

PTI lawmaker Naqvi criticised the Election Commission of Pakistan for holding the by-election during “Ramazan and hot weather”, which he equated with a “conspiracy against democracy”.

PML-N candidate Miftah Ismail during his visit to a polling camp in Baldia Town said that the “by-election has been going on peacefully and we expect a positive outcome”.

He also asked the ECP for extension of polling hours.

PTI candidate Amjad Iqbal Afridi condemned what he called “police gardi” in the area and regretted that the ECP was not taking notice of it. He said they had received complaints at different polling stations that their supporters were being prevented from casting their votes. “Police worked as a representative of the PPP’s candidate in the constituency,” said Mr Afridi. He alleged that the police were harassing voters.

The PTI lawmaker from the same area Malik Shahzad Awan in his reaction said that the ECP had ordered his expulsion but they did not know that he was a resident of Baldia Town. He claimed that he had gone to cast his vote but the ECP issued a notice of expulsion to him. He alleged that the ECP had singled out only PTI lawmakers and asked the ECP to demonstrate “impartiality”.

PPP candidate Qadir Khan Mandokhel, reacting to charges of PML-N candidate Miftah Ismail and PSP’s Syed Mustafa Kamal, said that the former was “hoodwinking” the people.

Mr Mandokhel alleged that the PSP was a “subsidiary organisation”’ of the MQM-P. He said Mustafa Kamal and Anis Kaimkhani had earlier led a rally in the area where three workers of the PPP were shot at and injured allegedly by PSP workers. He also said that Mr Kamal staged a “sit-in” outside his main election camp.

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2021

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