Ideology trumps candidates in PP-7 by-election

Published July 18, 2022
Women wait for their turn to poll votes at the Bhura Hayal polling station during the by-election in the PP-7 constituency in Kahuta on Sunday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Women wait for their turn to poll votes at the Bhura Hayal polling station during the by-election in the PP-7 constituency in Kahuta on Sunday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

RAWALPINDI:Polling in the PP-7 constituency of Rawalpindi remained largely peaceful barring some incidents of violence as residents of Kahuta and Kallar Syedan voted to elect their Punjab Assembly representative in the crucial by-election held after the de-seating of the dissident Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers across Punjab under Article 63-A.

At least six candidates contested the election. Raja Sagheer was fielded by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) whereas retired colonel Shabbir Awan was PTI’s nominee. Hafiz Mansoor of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Raja Tanveer of Jamaat-i-Islami and independent candidates Engineer Raja Nazakat Hussain and retired colonel Wasim also took part in the much-hyped polls.

According to unconfirmed reports, the voter turnout remained around 30pc whereas the former PTI MPA, Arif Abbasi, put the percentage at approximately 38pc.

For 335,295 registered voters, as many as 266 polling stations comprising 787 polling booths were established by the election commission. However, voting at some polling stations was started later than the scheduled time as the female staff of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) reached late at these polling stations. Male staff, on the other hand, had to face problems at the polling stations where they had to spend the night.

Polling remains largely peaceful except for some minor clashes

The voters, mostly locals, showed preference for the political parties instead of candidates. A large number of people had chosen between the PML-N and the PTI. The candidates of political parties had set up camps outside polling stations to facilitate their voters. The candidates also distributed lunch among their supporters and arranged vehicles to provide pick and drop to them.

A man casts his vote at the Mathore polling station on Sunday. — White Star
A man casts his vote at the Mathore polling station on Sunday. — White Star

Rigging allegations

In some polling stations, the PTI workers alleged that the ruling party candidate “bribed people through cash and flour”. However, the PML-N rejected the allegations.

Former MNA and PTI spokesman Sadaqat Ali Abbasi told Dawn that polling remained peaceful but the police and the ECP staff allegedly forced people to cast votes against the former ruling party.

“By afternoon, the PTI supporters came out in large numbers from Kahuta to cast vote in favour of Imran Khan’s candidate,” he said.

On the other hand, PML-N Metropolitan President Sardar Naseem and Tahira Aurangzeb alongside local office-bearers visited the constituency as well.

“The election remained peaceful and no violent incidents were reported in Kahuta and Kallar Syedan till evening,” said former mayor Sardar Naseem while talking to Dawn.

“There is no evidence of rigging in PP-7 as the government believed in fair and free elections,” he said while rejecting rigging allegations leveled by the PTI. He added that the party made efforts to bring people from small villages to poll votes.

District Election Commissioner Roy Sultan Bhatty told that the election commission received some “minor complaints” regarding the irregularities in voting. However, these issues were resolved with help of local party leaders, he added.

“No major clash was witnessed. The election commission provided ample opportunity to the people to use their right to choose [MPA] without any fear,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2022

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