Candidates in Nawabshah cry foul over sudden change of polling staff

Published February 8, 2024
An election commission worker shifts ballot boxes at a voting materials distribution centre in Karachi on February 7, 2024. — AFP
An election commission worker shifts ballot boxes at a voting materials distribution centre in Karachi on February 7, 2024. — AFP

NAWABSHAH: One independent candidate backed by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) for NA-207 (Nawabshah-I), and another from the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) for NA-208 (Nawabshah-II) and PS-38 (Sakrand) have accused the presiding officers concerned of committing pre-poll rigging in their constituencies.

Independent candidate Sardar Sher Mohammad Rind Baloch and GDA’s Syed Zainul Abideen Shah said the officers were changing the polling staff of their areas to favour the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

All the election staff was making preparations to ensure the success of Asif Ali Zardari, said Mr Baloch addressing a press conference, along with Inayat Ali Rind, another PTI-backed candidate for PS-37 (Nawabshah), at a private hall on Wednesday.

He alleged that the entire polling staff was working as a B-team of the PPP under pressure or after receiving bribe. The state machinery was being misused in that pre-poll rigging, he said.

He also alleged that more than 60 presiding officers had been changed and lower grade officials appointed as presiding officers instead of the ones in grade 17.

He said that Shaheed Benazirabad Deputy Commissioner Zahid Hussain Rind, who was the district returning officer (DRO), was not even ready to meet them or register their complaint. “We even tried to meet the commissioner to share our concerns, but in vain as he also was not available,” he said.

He claimed that he, along with his son Bahawal Khan Rind, who was also a PTI-backed candidate for PS-36 (Daur), and Inayat Ali Rind had visited more than 600 villages where they had been accorded a warm welcome and assured of votes.

“Many officers have informed us off the record that they were provided extra books, however I would not name them,” he said.

The overall environment was changed and people were behind the PTI and its leader Imran Khan, he said.

He said the power show of Asif Ali Zardari at Shiraz Chowk in Nawabshah on Monday was a flop as not more than 300 people were present there due to which Mr Zardari had changed his plan and did not attended the gathering.

If elections were held free and fair, Asif Zardari would not get more than 15,000 to 20,000 votes, said Mr Balch who is contesting the general elections against former president and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari.

Despite the all odds and injustices with them and other PTI-backed candidates, they would not leave the ground vacant and would fight the elections, he vowed.

Mr Baloch said he had deputed polling agents at all 680 polling stations of the constituency, including female staff, and in case of any rigging, they would hold the district administration and police responsible.

He also said they would report against the DRO and returning officers to the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Inayat Rind said the election rules were violated and lower grade staff had been deployed as presiding officers instead of the gazetted officers.

He warned that if the gazetted officers were not given the responsibilities as presiding officers at polling stations, they would not allow polling at those polling stations at any cost.

Sardar Baloch had contested on the same seat in 2018 on the ticket of the Grand Democratic Alliance with the support of the MQM-P and others, and grabbed a decent number of 50,000 plus votes against Mr Zardari who received 101,000 votes in the fight.

Sindh United Party president Syed Zainul Abideen Shah has levelled the same allegations against the PPP while addressing a press conference at his village of Majeed Keerio near Sakrand on Wednesday.

He alleged that the DRO had started pre-poll rigging by changing polling staff overnight.

He also alleged that PPP supporters had been deployed as presiding officers and polling officers at Mehrabpur where the family members of a former MNA had stamped and filled boxes with fake votes in the 2018 general elections.

The GDA candidate said that a number of complaints had been received from many areas and they reported the same to the DRO, but he was not at all ready to take any action and even not attending their calls.

He said that as per service rules, no any officer could be posted in the home district, but the Shaheed Benazirabad deputy commissioner had been posted as the DRO in his home district to facilitate the previous rulers (PPP).

The SUP leader and GDA candidate said he was in favour of the deployment of Army and Rangers personnel at polling stations to ensure fair and free polling. He demanded the elections under the supervision of the judiciary and not under the DRO.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2024

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