One person was shot dead and 10 others were injured as violence erupted in Karachi on Thursday during the NA-240 (Korangi Karachi II) by-election, with competing political parties — Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) — pointing fingers at each other.
Police surgeon Dr Summaiya Syed confirmed to Dawn.com that the casualties were brought to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre from the Landhi area.
She said Saifuddin Kaleem was brought dead to JPMC and had suffered bullet injuries on his head.
Some of the injured were identified as 18-year-old Waleed Qudrutullah with bullet injuries on his knee, Mohammed Idrees, 30, Khalid Chohan, 42, Salman Aslam, 35, Zeeshan Waris, 34, Aslam Ali, 35 and Nabeel Habib, 38, who suffered injuries on their head and other areas caused by hard and blunt instruments.
A spokesperson for the Edhi Foundation said that one of the injured, Iftikhar Alam, was shot at in the poll-related violence and transported to Liaquat National Hospital. He said Alam was a former MPA and a central PSP leader.
The PSP alleged that its senior leaders and election office were attacked during polls.
In a series of tweets, the PSP accused TLP workers of firing at its party chairman Syed Mustafa Kamal during a media talk. It added the party's central leaders were also injured.
In another tweet, the PSP said its central election office was attacked while Kamal and party president Anis Kaimkhani were present in the office.
The party also accused the MQM-P of staging a "deadly attack" on Kamal in Landhi-6.
The PSP released a statement from its spokesperson that accused the MQM-P, election officials and presiding officer of colluding to rig the by-election. "The MQM will no longer be allowed to win by stamping and rigging," the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, MQM-P MPA Khawaja Izharul Hassan claimed that over 10 incidents of violence against his party's workers took place during the by-election.
While talking to Dawn News, he alleged that at least eight MQM-P workers were "brutally tortured" by PSP members in the presence of the police and Rangers. He alleged that "PSP terrorists" barged into polling stations and beat up polling staff. "They did this in the last hour of the polling," Hassan added.
The MPA claimed that violence initially erupted between TLP activists and the PSP, however, both parties then targeted MQM-P workers and tortured them.
He questioned how the city administration would hold the local government elections when such elements roamed freely and could disturb the law and order situation anytime.
Edhi Foundation not spared
The Edhi Foundation reported that during violence and firing in Landhi-6, an ambulance of the foundation, that was on duty to rescue the injured, was fired upon but all staff were safe and continuing their activities.
An on-duty Edhi worker told Dawn News that he had been alerted about three to four injured people and went to rescue them when two unidentified individuals on a motorcycle asked him where he was going.
"I said I was going to pick up the injured and then he took out a pistol and fired. I don't know where the bullets hit but by the time I reached, [the injured] had been shifted by an Edhi ambulance," he said.
Sindh CM and election commissioner take notice
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah took notice of the violence and instructed Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ghulam Nabi Memon to not allow anyone to take the law into their hands.
"Election environment should be kept peaceful," he said as he urged all political parties to remain peaceful and exhibit responsible behaviour.
Talking to Dawn News, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon said the violence mostly took place in areas where no polling station and police contingent were present.
"The areas with no polling stations suffered violence between the activists of political parties," the minister said, adding that the chief minister had ordered the IGP to arrest those responsible for disrupting peace during the polls.
Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja too took a "serious notice" of the various incidents that happened in today's by-election. In a message, he directed Sindh's provincial election commissioner to ensure strict action across the board against the culprits such as the registration of a first information report.
The message added that a comprehensive report should also be sent to the Election Commission of Pakistan after which legal action would be taken at the commission's level.
Sindh Election Commissioner Ejaz Anwar Chauhan spoke to the IGP and Sindh Chief Secretary Muhammad Sohail Rajput regarding the poll-related violence.
He asked them to issue instructions to the concerned agencies to control the law and order situation in the area and to immediately arrest anyone who tried to disrupt the election process.
Chauhan said that a heavy contingent of police and Rangers should be deployed during the counting process to prevent any untoward incident.
He also instructed the district returning officer to take strict action against those trying to tamper the polling process and no leniency should be shown in this regard.
PTI leader Ali Haider Zaidi said he was saddened by the violence witnessed during the by-election and called on all contesting parties to exhibit patience.
Twenty-five candidates in the contest
Over half a million registered voters of NA-240 were expected to exercise their democratic and constitutional right in the by-election today, wherein among 25 contesting candidates the main fight was expected between the MQM-P, PPP and TLP.
The by-polls in the National Assembly constituency, which had fallen vacant after the death of MQM-P MNA Iqbal Muhammad Ali in April, managed to attract the interest of political parties, but it couldn’t create much electioneering during the campaigns compared to past trends.
The NA-240 comprises the areas which were once part of the former NA-255 and various areas of the NA-254 as the fresh constituency was created after delimitation of the constituencies on the basis of provisional results of the 2017 population census by amalgamating both former constituencies of the National Assembly.
The total population of the constituency, as counted in the 2017 census, stands at 853,973 while the registered voters in NA-240 are 529,855, including 294,385 male and 235,470 female voters.
A total of 309 polling stations and 1,236 polling booths were set up for elections in the constituency. The Election Commission and security administration had declared 203 polling stations “highly sensitive” and 106 as “sensitive”.
Mainly dominated by Urdu speakers, the constituency has a moderate number of pockets of residents of other linguistic groups.
With a total of 25 candidates in the run, among the main contestants include Muhammad Abu Bakar of the MQM-P, Shahzada Shahbaz of the TLP, Nasir Rahim of the PPP, Shabbir Ahmed Qaimkhani of PSP, Syed Rafiuddin of MQM with a number of independent candidates.
Hours before the polling on Wednesday, the PML-N announced to withdraw from the process in favour of the PPP.