LAHORE: The crucial by-elections in the four constituencies in Lahore on Sunday saw a good turnout during smooth and peaceful polling, except for sporadic brawls and an exchange of allegations.

A major complaint by several voters was that they were unable to find their votes at the polling stations mentioned in the Nadra message service. The voters remained confused and moved from pillar to post to poll their votes. Some others complained that the votes of members of their families had been divided between two constituencies.

Until the polling concluded at 5pm, the PTI and PML-N leaders continued saying the the polling process was held peacefully and no major law and order scene was witnessed across the province. PML-N’s home minister Attaullah Tarar said the polling process across the province was held peacefully and no serious law and order situation was reported.

PTI’s former federal minister Fawad Chaudhry, earlier in the day, said polling was held in a peaceful manner, except brawls at some places. He said people had come out of their homes in droves to ensure Pakistan got “real independence” from the rule of foreign masters.

Sporadic incidents of brawls, irritants were reported

Till the filing of this report when results were still pouring in, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf was winning three out of four seats in Lahore. The PTI defeated two turncoats – Nazir Chohan in PP-167 and Chaudhry Amin Zulqernain in PP-170 as its candidates Shabbir Ahmad Gujjar and Zaheer Abbas Khokhar, respectively, emerged winners.

The PTI also turned the tables in PP-158 as its candidate Mian Akram Usman defeated PML-N’s Rana Ahsan Sharafat who was fielded on the seat vacated by Abdul Aleem Khan for being a turncoat. Aleem Khan, who continued pitching himself as Punjab chief minister in the PTI government, could not help the PML-N save the seat, posing a threat to the Hamza Shehbaz government in Punjab.

The PTI lost only PP-168 seat where turncoat Asad Khokhar on PML-N ticket defeated PTI candidate Nawaz Awan with a large margin.

As per court orders, the Punjab chief minister’s run-off election will be held in the Punjab Assembly on July 22.

The PTI leaders expressed their glee over the initial results but stuck to its announced policy for the party workers and polling agents to ensure that no polling station’s votes should be left unguarded until getting signed official results on Form 45.

As vote counting was in full swing in the evening, PTI chairman Imran Khan tweeted around 7.30pm that the party would be winning at least 15 out of 20 seats as results were pouring in. “But it is very important for all people on duty in all polling stations not to leave their posts till official results have been obtained from the Returning Officers.”

PTI Secretary General Asad Umer also asked the polling agents to actively guard the votes at the polling stations until official results were given. “Don’t leave guarding votes while getting carried away with the early good results,” he warned.

PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry in a media talk in the evening had also expressed his reservations that the law and order situation had started deteriorating around 3pm as a fierce fight took place in PP-158, while party leader Shahbaz Gill was arrested and police tried to arrest former minister Shibli Faraz and Zulfi Bukhari. He said he himself was attacked by a TLP worker and his vehicle’s hind screen was broken. “The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), however, did not take any action,” he said.

As a PML-N worker alleged that PTI leader Jamshed Iqbal Cheema’s accomplices had injured him in a brawl in PP-158, the PTI leaders asserted that police continued acting against the PTI and arrested its workers from the election camps.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2022

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