KARACHI: Just two days before the first phase of local government elections in four divisions of Sindh, the key contesting parties on Thursday came up with serious concerns, accusing the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party of pre-poll rigging, and also demanded deployment of army fearing violence on the polling day (June 26).

Although not all of them want postponement of the first phase, during which polling is to be held in Sukkur, Larkana, Shaheed Benazirabad and Mirpurkhas divisions, a few of them directly approached the Election Commission of Pakistan for the postponement on almost the same reasons.

Former federal minister and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Sindh chapter president Ali Zaidi made the first move expressing his party’s fear that the elections could be “violent and deadly”. He asked the people of Sindh to remain peaceful. In his statement, he also questioned the role of “those who nowadays prefer to remain neutral”.

“We fear that the first phase of local body elections may be a violent and deadly exercise,” said Mr Zaidi. “The PPP is using illegal tactics to intimidate opposition candidates. The opposition candidates are being abducted and fake FIRs are being registered against them. Their proponents and supporters are being tortured. Should the security of Pakistanis not have been discussed in the national security meeting?”

Urging the law enforcement agencies to play their part, he said: “Neutrality is never an option at the cost of human life.”

Mr Zaidi questioned: “Isn’t it the responsibility of the institutions to protect the rights of citizens, and their lives and property?”

Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) – an umbrella organisation of five political parties – which is a key player in Sindh electoral politics, also raised question on the transparency of the process and accused the administration of “staging fake show to put PPP in power in provincial local government system”.

“If this whole exercise being carried out to bring PPP in power through this fake [LB elections] exercise, there should be no need to spend billions of rupees out of public money in the name of elections,” said GDA information secretary Sardar Abdul Rahim in a statement. He referred to multiple incidents of torture, abductions and attacks on rallies of political parties in different parts of Sindh to keep the parties contesting against the PPP away from the process.

“In Sanghar, our rally was attacked by armed men which left four men, including our MPA, badly injured,” he said, and demanded the “institutions concerned” to take notice before it’s too late. He accused the police in rural Sindh of facilitating the PPP and its leaders, and asked the ECP for immediate response against the violation of code of conduct.

Chief of Sindh United Party (SUP) Amir Ali Thebo went a step forward and directly approached the ECP chief for his intervention and postponement of the LB polls in Sindh, citing violence, pre-poll rigging which, he claimed, involved the entire administrative machinery.

“The SUP has collected data from all over Sindh which suggested that all the bureaucracy from the level of chief secretary and secretaries to the lower tier of the government are fully involved in supporting the ruling party candidates,” said the SUP letter to the ECP.

It also accused the PPP of using its “influence and corrupt practices” to restrain opponents by threatening the workers of other parties to withdraw in favour of ruling party candidates in violation of Election Act 2017 and Representation of the People Act, 1976.

It demanded that ECP must look at the serious implications of holding elections under these circumstances, and asked the ECP to postpone the LG elections to avoid a law and order situation.

The Sindh government has, however, brushed aside all allegations and accused the opponents of finding a “way out” through propaganda foreseeing their definite defeat. Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon, talking to reporters at Sindh Assembly, also blamed the opposition parties of spreading fake news regarding postponement of LG polls, hours before the day of voting, to create uncertainty.

“The local government elections have not been postponed, and it’s only our opponents who are spreading rumours because they have failed to find candidates in 80 per cent areas of the province,” he said.

“The opponents are spreading rumours to mislead the people, but I advise the people of Sindh not to pay attention on these rumours and to continue their preparations for the LG elections. I warn that strict action would be taken against them regardless of their party affiliation and without any discrimination if they tried to disturb law and order during the LG polls.”

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2022

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