LAHORE: A special person is helped to cast his vote at a polling station, set up for the by-election in a school at Railway Colony, on Sunday.—M. Arif / White Star
LAHORE: A special person is helped to cast his vote at a polling station, set up for the by-election in a school at Railway Colony, on Sunday.—M. Arif / White Star

• Initial, unconfirmed results indicate ruling party leading on nearly all Punjab seats
• Lone Sindh seat goes to PPP; PTI grabs two more seats in KP; PML-N and BNP-M set to bag one seat each in Balochistan
• Polling day marred by multiple incidents of violence across country; one killed in Narowal

ISLAMABAD: The ruling PML-N seemed to be in a commanding position after the close of polling, as by-elections were held in 21 constituencies across the country, initial and unofficial results showed on Sunday.

In Punjab, the election was held on 12 provincial and two national assembly seats, in Khyber Pakh­tunkhwa, the election was held on four seats, two seats in Balo­chistan, and one National Assembly seat in Sindh was also up for grabs.

As per a preliminary count, the PML-N appeared to be leading in all constituencies in Punjab, except Rahim Yar Khan.

In Sindh, the PPP candidate was the likely winner whereas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, PTI-backed candidates were leading on two seats in D.I. Khan and Kohat, with PTI-backed Faisal Amin Khan Gandapur securing victory in NA-44, as per the unofficial result released by the returning officer in D.I. Khan.

Although parts of Punjab and KP saw across-the-board suspension of mobile and internet services and the army was deployed for security purposes along with police and civil armed forces, the by-polls witnessed multiple incidents of violence, leading to the death of a PML-N supporter in a clash outside a Narowal polling station.

In Sheikhupura, four people were wounded whereas PML-N and PPP supporters clashed in Rahim Yar Khan.

Punjab

The NA seats on which by-elections took place included NA-119 (Lahore) and NA-132 (Kasur), while the Punjab Assembly seats for which the by-polls took place included PP-22 (Chakwal), PP-32 (Gujrat), PP-36 (Wazirabad), PP-54 (Narowal), PP-93 (Bhakkar), PP-139 (Sheikh­upura), PP-147, PP-149, PP-158, and PP-164 (Lahore), PP-266 (Rahim Yar Khan) and PP-290 (Dera Ghazi Khan).

In Punjab, the turnout was low as key leaders stayed away from electioneering. However, the polling exercise was marred by allegations of rigging, with the PTI claiming to be at the receiving end.

A supposed ‘confession’ by a presiding officer at a polling station in Lahore was circulated with the claim that he had obtained the signatures of agents before the end of polling, while a video clip supposedly showing irregularities at a Wazirabad polling station also circulated on Sunday.

The PTI alleged that the presiding officer for polling station-127 in Lahore’s PP-149 had made polling agents sign the Form-45 before the culmination of the polling and the officer was quoted as “admitting” the irregularity arguing that “he had done so to save time”. PTI-SIC candidate Zeshan Rashid staged a sit-in at the polling station to protest this transgression.

In Gujrat, former Punjab chief minister Parvez Elahi’s wife Sumera Elahi alleged that ballot papers were snatched and stuffed into ballot boxes in favour of PML-Q’s Musa Elahi, a nephew of ex-CM Parvez, at the Kathala polling station while the police ignored this practice. PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan and opposition leader in the national assembly Omar Ayub Khan along with other party leaders also reached Gujrat to monitor the situation.

The Lahore police also arrested former PTI MPA Shabbir Gujjar from the Valencia Town polling station apparently without any charge.

Likewise, a video clip showed the recovery of dozens of ballot papers purportedly from the presiding officer of a polling station in PP-36 Wazirabad. In Rahim Yar Khan, the PPP workers alleged that PML-N supporters attacked them with batons to push them away from the polling stations where the PPP candidate was winning.

They claimed that a female polling agent of the PPP was also “kidnapped by the ruling party supporters”. By the filing of this report at 11pm, the ruling PML-N was leading all the electoral contests except in Rahim Yar Khan.

Balochistan

In Balochistan, elections were held on PB-22 (Lasbela) and PB-20 (Wadh), whereas re-polling was held in PB-50 (Qila Abdullah) amid some reports of violence.

According to the unofficial result, PML-N’s Nawab­zada Zareen Magsi won from Lasbela with 49,777 votes while independent candidate Shahn­awaz Hassan got 3,869 votes. In Wadh, Mir Jahanzeb Mengal obtained 30,455 votes while Shafiq Mengal got 14,311 votes.

In Lasbela, Mir Hassan Jamote who was contesting the by-election on the PPP ticket withdrew from the contest in favour of Zareen Magsi on the directive of President Asif Ali Zardari. Nawabzada Zareen Magsi is son of Mir Aamir Magsi, a leader of PPP Sindh and son-in-law of ex-CM Jam Kamal.

In Qila Abdullah, armed men barged into polling stations during the re-polling, prompting a notice from the ECP chief, Sikandar Sultan Raja who asked the police chief to submit a report in this regard. “Strict action should be taken against those who are responsible for entering the polling stations,” he told the Balochistan IGP.

In a press conference, Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) leader Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal claimed that armed men entered polling stations and took hostages.

The Awami National Party leaders shifted the blame and said the PkMAP was behind this incident. However, the polling continued.

The Supreme Court had ordered re-polling in the constituency when the election commission’s decision regarding re-polling in 12 polling stations was challenged. The apex court rejected the decision of the election commission and ordered re-election in the entire constituency.

Engineer Zamrak Khan Piralizai of the ANP and Mirwais Achakzai of the PkMAP were vying for this seat. On February 8, the former was elected to this seat for the fourth time.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

In KP, by-elections were held in NA-8 (Bajaur), NA-44 (D.I. Khan), PK-22 (Bajaur) and PK-91 (Kohat). The situation largely remained peaceful barring minor altercations at some polling stations. Voters and supporters of various candidates complained about sudden changes to some polling stations in Khar and Sadiqabad areas of the Bajaur district.

Workers of different political parties, however, said the turnout was lower than expected, while the participation of women voters was even lower. Polling staff at several polling stations for women told Dawn the number of women voters was “very low”.

In NA-8, the competition acc­o­rding to the unofficial initial results, seemed to be between PTI-backed Gul Zafar Khan and the independent candidate Mubarak Zeb Khan, younger brother of the slain PTI leader Rehan Zeb Khan. Mubarak Zeb Khan was reportedly the winner in PK-22 as well.

The NA-44 seat became vacant when Faisal Amin’s brother and Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sardar Ali Amin Khan Gandapur vacated it.

According to unofficial results of all 358 polling stations issued by the Returning Officer, PTI-backed Faisal Amin Khan Gandapur secured 66,332 votes while his runner up candidate Abdur Rasheed Khan Kundi of PPP bagged 21,972 votes.

The overall voter turn out remained quite low which was 24.40 per cent.

Sindh

In Sindh, PPP’s Khursheed Ahmed Junejo was ahead with 15,932 votes from 65 polling stations according to the unofficial results from NA-196 in Shahdadkot. Mr Junejo bagged 15,932 votes from 65 polling stations out of the total 303 polling stations in Shahdadkot.

Our correspondents in Bajaur, D.I. Khan and Kohat also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2024

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