PTI, rivals in close fight as AJK votes in local polls

Published November 28, 2022
A WOMAN casts her vote at a polling station in Muzaffarabad during the local government elections on Sunday.—Photo by Tariq Naqash
A WOMAN casts her vote at a polling station in Muzaffarabad during the local government elections on Sunday.—Photo by Tariq Naqash

MUZAFFARABAD: The ruling PTI in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) appeared to have lost to its arch-rivals PML-N and PPP in Muzaffarabad district, but was ahead of them in Neelum and Jhelum valley districts, as polling for the first phase of local government (LG) elections in Muzaffarabad division was held on Sunday in a generally peaceful atmosphere.

Contrary to the widely prevailing security concerns due to the non-deployment of security forces from Pakistan, only four persons, including a woman, sustained minor wounds in two incidents at three polling stations in Muzaffarabad district.

“Regardless of results, I express my heartfelt gratitude to the people of Muzaffarabad division for demonstrating great political maturity by turning up in large numbers and casting their votes in a cordial atmosphere at their respective polling stations. Bravo,” tweeted Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas late in the evening.

Though less than 5,000 police personnel could be spared mainly to maintain law and order at 1,323 polling stations across the division, the army had also given signals that it could come in aid of the civilian administration in the event of hostilities in any area, which had also significantly contributed to the maintenance of order.

Divisional Commissioner Masood-ur-Rehman told Dawn that three persons suffered minor wounds in Katheli area while one woman was injured, reportedly during aerial firing between rival political workers, in Kumi Kot area, both located towards the south of state capital.

Two persons were arrested apart from postponement of polling in Kumi Kot, he said.

Polling was also cancelled in Beesanwali village of Neelum valley after six female voters died in a road accident while on way back to home.

The commissioner said that a scuffle also took place in two polling stations of Garhi Dupatta but by that time the polling staff had already left the place after completing its process.

Unconfirmed and unverified results that started pouring in since evening and continued till late night suggested that 12 seats were bagged by PML-N, 10 by PTI, and seven each by PPP and independents for the Municipal Corporation Muz­­affarabad. This meant that the opposition was all set to bring its mayor in the capital.

Similarly, the PTI position in the 41-member district council Muzaffarabad was also not very convincing according to results of around 30 seats.

In Jhelum valley district, PTI had secured 10 out of 18 district council seats. It was also ahead of its rivals in district council Neelum.

Supporters of winning candidates took out rallies and processions after the announcement of unconfirmed results in different areas, exploding fire crackers and chanting slogans.

Earlier in the morning, polling began after 8am and continued till 5pm. In many polling stations in urban and rural areas, long queues of voters were seen, reflecting overwhelming interest of the people in the poll process.

“My sister was enthusiastic to cast her vote because she was hardly nine when the last time local government polls were held,” said a young boy who brought her wheelchair-bound sister to a polling station near Press Club.

In another polling station in the old part of Muzaffarabad, Sania Hameed said she was feeling excited after casting her vote in the polls which, she added, would help common men to have their problems addressed without obstructions and deferments.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) retired Justice Abdul Rasheed Sulehria visited different polling stations in the capital along with senior member Raja Farooq Niaz and expressed satisfaction over the polling process.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2022

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