• Authorities urged to stop mockery of democracy
• Allies at Centre become opponents in province
• ECP asked to declare elections null and void
KARACHI: Making a unanimous demand, the opposition parties in Sindh on Sunday called for intervention from the ‘top authorities’ of the country to declare the first phase of local government elections in four divisions of the province null and void accusing the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of rigging, resorting to violence and using police as its ‘armed wing’ to facilitate ‘aggression’ against the political opponents in which two people were killed and scores of others were injured in polls-related violence.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Sindh United Party (SUP), Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), and Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM) came up with a strong reaction and accused the PPP of rigging polls and rejected the whole electoral process. They blamed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of ‘sitting idle’ when the gross violations were being carried out in all 14 districts.
The parties termed the election ‘a mockery of democracy’, a ‘cruel joke’ and a ‘circus’.
The strong reactions started pouring in the second half of the day.
Former federal minister and PTI’s Sindh chapter president Ali Zaidi said the fears expressed by his party proved to be true and predicted the trend to continue in the second phase of elections.
“We know that the PPP won’t let anyone win the elections through fair means,” he said while addressing a press conference with party colleagues.
“They [PPP] can’t win a single seat due to their 14 years of worst governance, corruption and incompetence. The vandalism started when the schedule of the election was announced. Our candidates were kidnapped, booked in false cases and many were harassed to leave their hometown with families to save their lives. We reject this election and if these elections get stamp of validation from the top institutions concerned, it would be a disaster for democracy and Sindh.”
He described the police as “PPP workers in uniforms” who “managed the violence on the orders of ruling party”.
MQM claims PPP used dacoits to harass opponents
The MQM-P also questioned the PPP government and accused the ruling party of involving armed dacoits to harass opponents, polling staff and keep people away from voting process.
The ally of the PPP in the federal government, the MQM was sure that the first phase of the Sindh local bodies’ elections was marred by the ruling party’s ‘vandalism’.
“Should we call it an election,” senior MQM-P leader and former Karachi mayor Wasim Akhtar questioned during a press conference at the party’s temporary headquarters in Bahadurabad.
“This is a joke and you expect us to call it a democracy. The polling staff was taken hostage, the voters were under pressure to save their life and the police were helping the armed bandits who were brought by the PPP. Is this a kind of circus going on in the name of election? We totally reject this process and want fresh free and fair one.”
SUP says PPP used govt machinery
SUP president Syed Jalal Mehmood Shah had almost the similar thoughts to express.
He said that his party had already conveyed their concerns and fears to every single institution “which matters”, but no one paid any heed and all the fears proved to be true at the cost of people’s lives.
“Free and fair elections in Sindh seem impossible thanks to a weak election commission and vandalism of the PPP,” he said.
“The PPP used government machinery to hold meetings with party leaders before the polls but no one took notice. Today opponents have been kidnapped, hijacked, attacked and even killed, but still we see the process is going on. This waste of public money and energy should come to an end. The Election Commission should now assert its authority and declare the elections null and void.”
GDA sees ‘fake’ exercise to bring PPP in power
GDA also rejected the polls process and appealed to the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take notice of grave violation of the code of conduct.
“It seems that all this fake exercise is carried out to bring PPP in power,” said GDA information secretary Sardar Abdul Rahim. “Our workers were under threat for last two months for their political right to contest elections, run their campaigns and raise their voice against injustice. Today they were targeted one by one and this all exercise was carried out through police of the respective areas. This is the worst local bodies’ elections in Sindh history.”
JUI-F claims ECP failed to stop rigging
Maulana Rashid Mehmood Soomro, general secretary of the JUI-F, Sindh, said the ECP had failed to fulfil its responsibility in holding local bodies’ elections in Sindh.
He alleged that the JUI-F workers were brutally tortured, harassed while the police remained stood as silent spectator. He added that their workers despite all the violence remained peaceful and steadfast.
He accused the provincial government for its ‘partial’ role, which had put a question mark on the transparency of the election. He said the Election Commission had failed to stop pre-poll rigging and rigging on the polling day and the entire process due to ECP’s role and provincial government’s attitude did not remain ‘fair and transparent’.
JI, PSP, MWM slam ruling party in Sindh
In separate statements, the JI, PSP and MWM rejected the first phase of LG elections in Sindh and accused the PPP of deliberately mismanaging arrangements and triggering violence to win the voting with force.
The JI Sindh chief, Muhammad Hussain Mehnati, called it a reflection of PPP’s feudal mindset which led to violence and bloodshed.
The PSP in a statement accused the Sindh police of giving protection to “PPP criminals” for rigging and violence.
The MWM in a statement called it consistent failure of the ECP despite off and on demands from political parties for its effective role.
Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2022