Voters face a great deal of inconvenience due to rainwater accumulated outside a polling station. — Online
Voters face a great deal of inconvenience due to rainwater accumulated outside a polling station. — Online

LAHORE: Polling in cantonment boards elections in Punjab remained largely peaceful with ‘unusual enthusiasm’ of the supporters of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-insaf (PTI) and opposition PML-N witnessed at the polling stations on Sunday.

There were reports of a few clashes between supporters of the ruling party and opposition PML-N in Multan, Lahore and Gujranwala.

The PML-N was reportedly leading in Punjab followed by independents and PTI. The independents performed well in different districts grabbing nine of total 10 seats in Multan and four of five in Okara.

In Lahore, PML-N claimed bagging 15 out of 19 wards. Similarly, in Rawalpindi which also has 19 wards the PML-N had a comfortable lead.

PML-N leading in province

In Sialkot, PML-N bagged three while PTI won two wards. In Jhelum, the PTI bagged both seats. In Gujranwala, PTI bagged six wards while PML-N and independents two each. In Wah Cantt, PML-N bagged eight wards and PTI two. In Bahawalpur, PML-N got three and PTI two. Independents bagged five wards in Sargodha while PTI managed three and PML-N two. In taxila, PML-N won three wards and PTI two.

Polling in Lahore’s ward-7 was suspended after a candidate of PTI-Nazriati passed away. In the other 19 wards of the city, the polling began at 8am.

A low turnout was witnessed in the early hours of the polling because of rain. However, the momentum picked up in the afternoon. Both PTI and PML-N made a request to the Election Commission to increase the polling time for an hour citing that rain forced the voters to stay home in early hours of the polling but it was turned down and the polling ended as per schedule of 5pm.

As the polling on most wards remained peaceful, in some wards the charged supporters of the PTI and PML-N were face to face chanting slogans against each others’ leadership. However, the presence of police and rangers averted any clash. The enthusiasm of political workers was unusual if compared with the previous cantonment boards’ polls. An opposition leader was of the view that voters showed a keen interest in the polling process because they wanted to vent their anger at the government’s anti-people policies.

When it came to observing Covid-19 SOPs at the polling stations, there were hardly a few voters wearing masks going inside to cast their votes. The party workers present outside polling stations showed a complete disregard for social distancing or wearing masks. However, in the polling stations, most of the polling staff was observing the pandemic SOPs.

Although the ECP had allowed media persons to enter the polling stations with cameras for making footage of the voting process, in most polling stations journalists were not allowed to carry cameras and mobile phones with them.

The presence of banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) was also noticed at several polling stations. The TLP was running for 19 of the slots.

Election Commissioner of Punjab Ghulam Israr visited different polling stations in the city and expressed satisfaction over the security situation. He said if there was a support of the provincial and federal governments, the local body polls would be held soon.

In a hurriedly called presser, PPP Punjab senior vice president Aslam Gill said police raided the house of its candidate Edwan Sahotra at the behest of the government’s candidate in the Lahore cantonment boards’ polls. He complained that there was a difference in the voters’ lists. He said the PTI government had committed pre-poll rigging by using official machinery.

PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz expressed her satisfaction over the performance of the party in the cantonment boards polls in the country. “Unprecedented that despite being the prime target & enemy no 1, PML-N doing exceedingly well Masha’Allah. Better than all including PTI that never contests on its electoral strength & relies solely on scrounged support. Future PMLN Insha’Allah,” she tweeted.

The PML-N workers thronged Saad Rafique’s office here and celebrated the victory in Lahore. The charged workers chanted slogans against the PTI government and danced to the tune of drums.

Speaking on the occasion, Rafique said the PML-N had bagged all nine seats in the Walton (Cantonment) and five in the Cantt (Lahore). He alleged the PTI supporters had held a polling station staff hostage for three hours and also attacked a PML-N candidate. Rafique along with the workers chanted ‘give respect to the ballot’ a narrative given by the party Quaid Nawaz Sharif.

Meanwhile, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif said the people had expressed their confidence in the PML-N in the cantonment polls. “We assure the masses that we will not disappoint them and work hard to resolve their problems,” he said. The other four seats in Lahore were reportedly won by PTI.

In Punjab, over 1,300 candidates were in the run for 119 wards/general seats in 20 cantonments, where about one million voters were registered to exercise their right to franchise.

In Lahore as many as 257 candidates were contesting for 19 wards. The ECP had declared 40 and 237 polling stations as `extremely’ sensitive, respectively.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2021

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