Good voter turnout in twin cities despite dull electioneering

Published February 9, 2024
Staff at a polling station at Committee Chowk in Rawalpindi counts votes after completion of polling on Thursday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Staff at a polling station at Committee Chowk in Rawalpindi counts votes after completion of polling on Thursday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

ISLAMABAD: After more than a month of lacklustre election campaigns, a large number of voters in Islamabad and Rawalpindi headed to their respective polling stations to poll votes despite a communication outage and alleged discrepancies in the allotment of polling stations.

Although the turnout was said to be satisfactory, the election festivity and the associated hustle and bustle were missing outside the polling stations in the federal capital, where the turnout was expected to be above 50pc. As it was a public holiday on Thursday due to elections, traffic remained thin on the capital’s roads.

Foolproof security arrangements were made and all stations were given security cover by the capital police while the army troops, who were called to maintain law and order during polling, were not seen close to any polling station.

In the last general elections in 2018, police personnel and army troops were deployed inside the polling stations as well as polling booths.

Voters complain about inconsistency in allocation of polling stations; suspension of cellular services confuses voters

As mobile phone services were suspended across the country apparently due to security reasons, people faced difficulties in searching polling stations, especially those established in remote areas of the capital.

Participation of women voters was higher in rural and far-flung areas as compared to urban polling stations. In some of the polling stations, the turnout was around 80 per cent. “More than 80 per cent of registered voters in the polling station have polled their votes.” a returning officer at a government school in F-7 told Dawn.

He said the voting process remained peaceful and no untoward incident took place throughout the day in the polling station. Some of the voters have complained that members of a single family were given different polling stations to cast their votes. “My wife and two sons polled their votes in four different polling stations,” a voter Laeeq Ahmed said.

In some cases, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has registered votes on the basis of permanent addresses of the voters while in some cases on temporary addresses.

In Islamabad, the election was held on three National Assembly seats: NA-46 (Islamabad-I), NA-47 (Islamabad-II) and NA-48 (Islamabad-III). The total number of registered voters in Islamabad is over 1.083 million and the number of male voters is above 500,000, which is 52.48pc of the total voters. Similarly, the percentage of women voters is 47.52pc.

The polling that started at 8am in the morning, ended right on time at 5pm and no extra time was given in any of the polling stations after which their doors were closed by the police. Those voters were inside the polling stations even after the doors were closed, and were allowed to cast their votes.

‘Reactive voters’

Nonetheless, voters expressed satisfaction with the smooth flow of the process. “Everything went smoothly,” said senior citizen Shamim, who had been voting since college days. Perturbed by suspension of mobile and data services she said, “It suits them to shut down the service.”

However, at a press talk after casting his vote at Islamabad Model College for Boys in F-8/4, Jamat-i-Islami contestant Mian Aslam complained that he was unable to reach his party works and could not address their grievances.

Dr Shaheen Rafi Khan enjoying his retired life had voted only once before. In a reference to the crackdown on the PTI, he said, “My vote is a reactive vote. I don’t entirely agree with the policies of PTI but what has happened to them is blatantly unfair.”

In Sector I-8, members of a family complained of being allocated different polling stations. This was also true for a senior citizen in a wheelchair Naseem Akhtar Shoaib, who had to cast a vote at Islamabad Model College for Girls F-6/2 while the rest of her family cast their vote at a polling station in Islamabad College for Girls F-6/2.

“Voters have been complaining about being allocated separate polling stations,” confirmed one staff member at a polling station.

In sectors F-6 and F-8, female voters seemed to outnumber their male counterparts. First-time voter Zoya Wadood, who is a student of medicine, said, “We should not be scared even if there seems to be no hope. We have to vote for the future of the country. Imran Khan is not perfect…but his intentions are good and that can’t be said for others.” Her mother, who was voting for the PTI for the second time described Imran Khan as “a true leader”.

Rawalpindi turnout

In Rawalpindi, the turnout was also decent. In Khayaban-i-Sir Syed, where PML-N’s Hanif Abbasi was contesting against PTI’s Shehryar Riaz in NA-56 and Ziaullah Shah was contesting against PTI-backed Ijaz Khan Jazi for PP-16, the number of voters outside the polling station was high since morning.

Raja Khurram, who was in the camp office of the PML-N said, that polling started on time and claimed that his party would win.

Sheikh Muzaffar Ali, a supporter of PTI while talking to Dawn, said that it was feared that PTI would not get a level playing field, but no one disturbed the party on poll day “Earlier, my son was arrested just because we are supporting the PTI, but I have to admit that no one disturbed us during polling,” he said. — Ikram Junaidi also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2024

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