• All three key parties make claim for Karachi mayor office
• PPP in pole position to bring mayor in Hyderabad
• Reports of sporadic violence, mismanagement received
KARACHI / HYDERABAD: After a long delay, local government elections in Karachi and Hyderabad were finally held on Sunday with people casting votes to elect their representatives.
The polling, which started at 8am, continued till 5pm in a largely peaceful manner with sporadic incidents of violence and recriminations of rigging by political parties.
Unofficial results from Hyderabad put the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in pole position on the majority of seats. However, till midnight, there was no clear word as to who was leading the polls in Karachi.
As per the media reports, the turnout remained low at the start of the day, with more voters coming out of their homes as the polling neared conclusion. There was no official word about the turnout.
Amid complaints of an inordinate delay in the announcement of results, all three major political parties — Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and PPP — claimed they were leading the race.
PPP Karachi president and Sindh minister Saeed Ghani admitted that a “neck-and-neck” race was on between his party and the JI for the top slot of Karachi mayor, Dawn.com reported.
“We have won over 100 [UC] seats,” JI Karachi emir Hafiz Naeemur Rehman said while addressing workers at the party headquarters Idara Noor-i-Haq.
He added that as per “credible information” from polling agents, the party was leading on over 20 UCs, but the results were being deliberately delayed.
PTI also claimed victory as soon as the polling ended, with party leader Imran Ismail, in a tweet, claiming that his party had won the elections and Chairman Imran Khan will announce the name of the mayor.
Earlier in the day, political tension remained high as one of the major parties in Karachi and Hyderabad, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) had boycotted the polls just hours before the polling was scheduled to start.
The party, in the wee hours of Sunday, decided to sit out of the exercise after the ECP refused to meet its demand of postponing elections. MQM-P had raised objections over the delimitation and demanded the polls be put off until new delimitation were completed. The party also claimed that its boycott resulted in low turnout.
While the polling started on time in many areas, there were reports of delays, prompting the political parties to seek an extension in the polling duration.
However, the ECP rejected the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Jamaat-i-Islami’s requests to extend the polling time by two hours.
PTI leader Ali Zaidi and JI Karachi emir Hafiz Naeemur Rehman said the time should be extended wherever the voting process had started late.
There were also reports of mismanagement with voters in several parts of Karachi, facing difficulties in casting their votes. They complained of errors and irregularities in voter lists and the ECP data.
It was also alleged in some areas that the polling staff deliberately followed the policy of minimum polling.
Strict security arrangements were made in the two cities to ensure smooth electoral exercise and authorities remained on high alert.
Election Commissioner Secretary Umer Hameed, Sindh Chief Secretary Sohail Rajput, Police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon, the Sindh Rangers director general and the Karachi commissioner visited different areas of Karachi.
Mr Hameed told the media that foolproof security arrangements were in place for smooth polling.
Around 65,000 police personnel were deployed on polling duty in seven districts of Karachi.
Karachi Additional IG Javed Alam Odho claimed that the voting process was not disrupted at any polling station in the metropolis.
A total of 17,862 candidates took part in the elections, out of which 9,057 were in Karachi, 6,228 in Hyderabad and 2,577 in Thatta district.
Due to the deaths of 23 candidates and the election of seven candidates unopposed in seven Karachi districts, polling was held on 1,200 out of the 1,230 seats of chairman, vice chairman and ward member.
Additionally, 410 candidates were elected unopposed in the Hyderabad division and 310 in Thatta.
By and large, polling remained peaceful in Hyderabad division except for a few incidents of clashes. However, no major incident of violence was reported from anywhere.
Unofficial results showed the elections to be a ‘one-sided affair’ as PPP was poised to win most seats in nine districts of the Hyderabad division and easily bring its mayor to head the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (HMC) for the first time in recent past.
According to the initial observation by Sindh’s Provincial Election Commissioner Aijaz Anwar Chohan, the turnout in nine districts of the division could be between 15-20pc in urban centres, with the turnout dropping in rural areas.
The low turnout, especially in Hyderabad city, was attributed to the MQM-P’s boycott.
In Hyderabad division, the seats of chairman, vice chairman and general councillors were up for grabs in 134 union committees (UCs) as 26 candidates of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had already returned unopposed.
The race was now set to take place for the HMC mayor with Kashif Shoro, brother of Sindh’s Irrigation Minister Jam Khan Shoro being the potential PPP candidate who was set to sweep the contest.
The polling process continued smoothly till 5pm although in some areas, it was disrupted as candidates raised different objections over the polling process.
In one incident of violence, two persons namely Mohammad Khan and Ashiq Chandio were injured when they were attacked with axes by their rivals. The scuffle took place between the supporters of independent and PPP candidates.
Various incidents of aerial firing were also reported in Badin district where a GDA supporter accused a local PPP leader of resorting to firing.
As per the claims of GDA supporters, they had objected to the visit of PPP MPA from Badin, Taj Mohammad Mallah to a polling station.
This led to an altercation between the supporters of Mr Mallah and GDA workers with the lawmaker arguing that he was a voter himself.
In the Bukera Sharif area of Tando Allahyar Rangers used force to disperse people following a scuffle between supporters of various political parties outside a polling station. The Rangers personnel resorted to baton charge to disperse the unruly supporters.
In Tando Muhammad Khan, the polling remained largely peaceful other than a minor scuffle in UC Khaliq Soomro between the supporters of independent and PPP candidates.
The low turnout was also reported in Thatta district.
In an upset in Sujawal, Deputy Speaker Rehana Leghari’s nephew, Faraz Laghari faced defeat at the hands of an independent candidate, Shah Hussain Shaikh, according to unofficial results.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2023