Rigging allegations mar peaceful polling in Karachi

Published February 9, 2024
(Clockwise form top left) A large number of people are standing outside a polling station in Martin Quarters area on the election day on Thursday; a polling agent strikes off an entry relating to a voter on the electoral roll to indicate that a ballot paper has been issued in DHA; women wait in a queue outside a polling both to cast their vote in Korangi; and vote counting is under way at a polling station in Lyari.—Fahim Siddiqi / Shakil Adil / White Star
(Clockwise form top left) A large number of people are standing outside a polling station in Martin Quarters area on the election day on Thursday; a polling agent strikes off an entry relating to a voter on the electoral roll to indicate that a ballot paper has been issued in DHA; women wait in a queue outside a polling both to cast their vote in Korangi; and vote counting is under way at a polling station in Lyari.—Fahim Siddiqi / Shakil Adil / White Star

• Suspension of telecom services hits voter turnout
• Voting starts with hours’ delay at some stations

KARACHI: The financial hub of the country on Thursday witnesses an otherwise peaceful polling amid internet blackout, mobile phone service suspension, inordinate delay in polling, scuffles among party workers and allegations of rigging in several parts of the city.

While the polling, that started with hours’ delay in some areas, remained otherwise peaceful in view of the past elections, incidents of violent activities were also reported in parts of the city.

The social media platforms were flooded with footages of highhandedness with the polling staff, snatching of ballot papers, bogus voting in certain parts of the city and scuffles among parties’ workers.

In one post, it was shown that PPP candidate along with his supporters and workers stormed into a polling station breaking open the ballot boxes and destroying the ballot papers. Another post showed two women wearing MQM-P badges stuffing ballot boxes with already stamped bogus votes.

It was widely believed that the turnout would have been much higher if the voters had not been deprived of internet and mobile services leaving them in disarray to locate their polling stations and booths through digital applications.

Voters in several parts of the city also complained of slow polling process and lack of polling staff and required stationery that left many standing in queues for hours.

The turnout in several parts of the city remained low in the first half of the day as polling stations were giving deserted look since morning. However, it started gathering pace in the second half and long queues were witnessed outside the stations in the later part of the day. The turnout in General Election 2018 was around 51pc.

The polling process at a large number of station mainly begun at 8am and continued till 5pm without a break. There were, however, complaints of inordinate delay at many polling stations due to non-availability of polling staff or election material.

The doors of polling stations were shut at 5pm, allowing all those to cast their votes who were present on the premises of the polling stations. Police and Rangers personnel were deployed at the polling stations to maintain the law and order situation. The army remained at the third tier of security personnel for election duties and were not seen in or around the polling stations almost across the city.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Jamaat-i-Islami, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Pakistan Peoples Party and others lodged complaints with the election watchdog about rigging, delay in commencing polling process and suspension of voting at several polling stations across the city.

Around 1,990 aspirants were in run including about 580 on 22 National Assembly and over 1400 on 47 Sindh Assembly seats from city’s seven districts South, East, West, Central, Malir, Korangi and Keamari.

The city has over 9.2 million registered voters and 5,342 polling stations were established in 2,779 buildings as district Central housed 1263 polling stations followed by East with 910, Korangi 750, West 676, Keamari 609, South 585 and Malir 549 polling stations.

Poll violence

Barring some violent incidents, the overall law and order situation remained peaceful in the metropolis during polling, according to officials.

Several persons were injured, one of them critically, in clashes between supposed rival parties during the voting process, according to police, hospital and rescue services officials.

A 22-year old man, Badal Mohammed was shot in Sohrab Goth during the election. He suffered a gunshot wound on his back, while 56-year-old Humayun Taj suffered gunshot injury when workers of two parties clashed with each other at polling station in Shah Faisal Colony.

A 35-year-old man, Mohammed Asif, 35, was injured in a firing incident near a polling station in the Sachal police remits and Uzair Ishtiaq suffered injuries caused by sticks during the clash for voting in Rafah Aam Society.

Some sporadic incidents of violence were also reported after the end of voting time in certain areas including Surjani Town where a passer-by, Ishaq, 62, was shot at and wounded when two groups resorted to firing in Surjani Town.

CM, Governor cast vote

Caretaker Chief Minister retired Justice Maqbool Baqar went to cast his vote at Government Boys Secondary School No.2 Polling Station, Block-6, PECHS, for NA-237 and PS-104.

Talking to the media, he said that the security arrangements were beefed up and the polling stations were functioning smoothly.

Later, Justice Baqar along with Home Minister retired Brig Haris Nawaz and IG Police Riffat Mukhtar, took an aerial view of the polling process by his helicopter.

Governor Sindh Kamran Khan Tessori cast his vote at the polling station of Neelam Colony, district South Karachi for National Assembly Constituency NA-241 and Sindh Assembly Constituency PS-110.

The governor speaking to the media after casting the vote, expressed satisfaction that polling process across the province was being conducted in a peaceful manner and people were casting their vote in a peaceful environment.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2024

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