KARACHI: Very low turnout of voters — reportedly caused by a general lack of interest in voting process, hot weather conditions and large scale violence — was witnessed at polling stations in the first phase of local bodies election held across Mirpurkhas, Sukkur, Shaheed Benazirabad and Larkana divisions on Sunday.
The voting either started late by several hours at many polling stations or it was suspended immediately afterwards due to violence and attacks on polling stations or blatant flaws in ballot papers.
Shaheed Benazirabad division
The polling process remained stalled till 12pm in union council No8 in Nawabshah after a group of armed men held staff, including three police officials, hostage at gunpoint at polling station No26 in ward No3 and snatched away all ballot papers and other election material.
The armed men also beat up the staff when they refused to hand them keys of cupboards from where they took out all the ballot papers and other material and escaped on SUV vehicles, said sources, adding the same group struck at two more polling stations in the UC and easily made away with election material.
At many other polling stations in the city the voting was delayed due to blatant errors in ballot papers.
The voters’ turnout remained very low in Sanghar, Naushahro Feroze and Shaheed Benazirabad districts apparently due to hot weather condition.
Shaheed Benazirabad’s returning officer asked presiding officer of the polling stations concerned to register FIR against the intruders.
Bhalo Ja Quba police, meanwhile, registered an FIR against 12 unknown men on charges of holding polling staff hostage at polling station No26 and taking away ballot papers and other election material.
At a polling station set up in Nadir Shah dispensary in ward No1 of the city, the voting process came to a halt soon after it started at 8 am after Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) candidates complained that their symbols had been changed.
Heavy contingents of police were deployed at 80 polling stations which were declared most sensitive and sensitive in the district.
In ward No3, UC-3 in M.H. Khwaja town, supporters of an independent candidate for general councilor took out a procession and staged a demonstration before Nawabshah press club to protest against change of the candidate’s election symbol.
The Independent candidate Rashid Chandio demanded re-election in his union council.
Likewise, all 12 polling stations in Soomar Jamali union council in Daur taluka voting came to a stop soon after it started after voters of GDA and PPP candidates raised objections that their symbols had been interchanged.
Sindh United Party’s senior vice president Roshan Ali Buriro said that at polling station Mohram Sangrah in Nawab Wali Mohammad union council, ballot papers were found lying with polling staff.
Nawabshah police arrested TLP district president Mushtaq Jatt outside a polling station in Muslim School in UC-5 and moved him to an unknown place.
In Sanghar, voters’ turnout remained low in 20 wards of four union councils in Tando Adam municipal committee due to scorching heat.
In Khipro, at polling stations No125 and 122 in ward No10 the voting process did not start till 10.6 am due to absence of polling staff while a clash between polling agents of PPP and GDA in ward No13 caused suspension of polling process for an hour from 10 am to 11 am.
PPP and GDA supporters clashed at polling stations in union councils of Kot Nawab and Asgarabad in Shahdadpur taluka, leading to suspension of voting for an hour.
Naushahro Feroze district
Polling was stopped at Gul Sher Kandrani polling station in Kandrani union council and at Mangho Dahar polling station in Deparcha union council after clashes broke out between supporters of Qaumi Awami Tehreek and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl and PPP and GDA activists.
PPP and GDA activists clashed when a van carrying ballot papers was attacked in Deparcha union council in which 10 persons were injured. A woman was reportedly beaten up when she refused to vote for PPP candidate at Talib Solangi polling station.
Voters’ turnout was better in the morning but it started to thin due to severe heat and several incidents of violence among voters and supporters of ruling and opposition parties.
Karan Hari Ram, son of PPP MPA Hari Ram Kishori Lal, created a scene when he and his supporters forcibly entered women’s polling station No9 in union council No7 and misbehaved with female polling officer who asked him to identify himself.
District returning officer Syed Waseem Ahmed Jaffri issued a letter to SSP asking him to eject Karan Ram from the women’s polling station and launch inquiry into the incident.
Meanwhile, Satellite town police claimed to have arrested three persons and recovered illegal arms from them but video footages that went viral after the arrest showed a purported supporter of a PPP candidate forcibly shoving arms into the hands of the innocent persons and then showing police that he had recovered pistol from them.
PTI Mirpurkhas president Aftab Qureshi condemned the SHO for supporting the PPP candidates and their supporters.
Polling was stopped at some polling stations over complaints of errors in lists and symbols and voters’ lists, and clashes between workers and supporters of different candidates reported in Sindhri, Naokot, Jhuddo, Mirpurkhas.
In Umerko, voters’ turnout was very low due to scorching heat and a general lack of interest in voting process though election was largely held in a peaceful manner.
Polling was suspended for an hour at polling station in ward No11 in Jogi Mohla afer 1300 ballot papers were found to be missing. Later 13 books of the ballot papers were found and polling process was restarted.
DRO Tahir Ameen Memon told Dawn that as they received the news they reached the polling station, searched the papers but found none. Later one Narain Malhi appeared and gave them the ballots saying that they were somewhere. The officer termed it a conspiracy against him.
The voters’ turnout was around 13 to 14 per cent due to extreme heat on the polling day as the temperature was 46 degree Celsius, voters’ lack of interest with election and violence in Larkana.
Polling process stopped for a few hours after Barrister Abdul Jabbar Shaikh, chief polling agent of a candidate Abdul Rauf Shaikh for chairman of union committee-1 of Larkana Municipal Corporation was arrested at Massan polling station in Dari Union Committee after PPP men objected over his papers.
Maulana Rashid Mehmood Soomro, general secretary of JUI-F and GDA MPA Moazzim Abbasi arrived at the police station but they were asked to contact the election commission. Police later released him after Dr Safdar Abbasi, general secretary GDA, warned they would block the Indus Highway.
Voters at Police Lines polling stations clashed and workers of PPP and JUI-F exchanged hot words at Empire road during polling. Maulana Rashid Mehmood Soomro later pacified the situation.
In Rohal Bugti village, polling was stopped for about an hour after the contesting parties objected over the presiding officers’ presence inside the booth.
Similar reports were received from Sachal Town’s new Nazar mohalla.
Jamil Soomro, political secretary to Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, also complained that voters lists were full of flaws and errors.
Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2022