KARACHI: The expected recriminations of rigging by political parties started within the initial hours of voting on Thursday, with multiple videos of “malpractice” also flooding social media.

The PPP claimed that ballot papers were snatched from the electoral staff in the PS-105 (Karachi East-IX) constituency. The JI alleged that MQM-P workers sabotaged the voting process across multiple polling stations.

Videos circulating on social media showed masked men entering polling stations in Karachi. However, the authenticity and date of recording of the videos could not be verified till filing of this report.

While mobile internet remained shut across the country during polling, these videos were viewed and shared by overseas Pakistanis on social media and WhatsApp groups.

Mandokhail smashed ballot boxes in one of videos

One of the videos, shared by journalist Naimat Khan on his official X account, showed Qadir Khan Mandokhail, PPP candidate for NA-242, kicking down the door and storming into a polling station while holding a ballot paper. Surrounded by a group of supporters, Mr Mandokhail went straight to a polling booth and smashed ballot boxes on the ground in the presence of police and polling officers.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said it had taken notice of an attack on a polling station. It also ordered the returning officer concerned to take immediate action against Mr Mandokhail under Section 196 of the Elections Act.

Under the section, offences such as attacking a polling station or booth, disturbing the polling process, snatching ballot boxes or papers, and attempting to intimidate the polling staff are punishable under the law. In case of such offences, the returning officer is bound to refer the matter to the police for an FIR against the alleged offender.

In other videos from Karachi, shared by Mr Khan, TLP and PPP also accused MQM-P of rigging and casting bogus ballots in the NA-232 and NA-246 constituencies of Karachi.

In a video, Jamaat-i-Islami leader Hafiz Naeemur Rehman accused MQM-P of rigging in Baldia Town.

In yet another video shared on social media, reportedly from a polling station in the NA-248 constituency, around five men dismantled the polling booth. However, Dawn couldn’t verify this claim independently.

From Balochistan, Akhtar Mengal wrote to the ECP, complaining about the Quetta SHO who had “taken away 900 votes”. Similarly, former National Assembly member Mohsin Dawar alleged “large-scale rigging” in the Tappi area of North Waziristan’s NA-40 constituency.

Salman Akram Raja, a PTI-backed independent candidate contesting against IPP’s Awn Chaudhry from Lahore’s NA-128, alleged that he was “evicted from the RO office”.

Sumair Abdullah in Karachi and Atika Rehman in London contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2024

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