ISLAMABAD, Jan 15: The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) gained and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) suffered at least one shock in low-turnout by-elections across the country on Wednesday amid opposition charges of rigging and violence that took five lives in Sindh.
The ruling party suffered an upset in Rawalpindi where the MMA defeated its candidate for a National Assembly seat vacated by Information and Media Development Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.
The minister accepted the defeat of his nephew Sheikh Raashid Shafique by the MMA candidate Hanif Abbasi before the Election Commission began announcing what it called unofficial results for 10 National Assembly seats and 18 of the four provincial assemblies.
The People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPP), which emerged the second largest party in the National Assembly in the Oct 10 general elections, boycotted voting for most of the seats it contested, accusing the government of “massive rigging” in Sindh where it said three of its workers had been killed and several kidnapped by rival parties in the Khairpur district.
There was no immediate confirmation from the Election Commission about the deaths of three PPP workers in Khairpur and two MQM activists in Karachi.
PPP leader Amin Fahim alleged massive poll rigging in which he said in a statement “the collusion of the administration with the king’s party and the spree of lawlessness let lose by it...left (his party) with no choice but to boycott the elections.”
He also told a private television channel that the boycott was a mark of protest rather than an admission of defeat.
Besides winning the prestigious Rawalpindi seat, the MMA also seemed headed to retain both seats vacated by its leaders Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Qazi Hussain Ahmed in the NWFP which the alliance is ruling after sweeping the October elections there.
PUNJAB: In Punjab, where four of the five National Assembly seats were contested, PML-Q’s loss of NA-56 Rawalpindi-VII by a big margin of 31,919 against 16,772 was partly compensated by the victory, with its support, of independent candidate Tasneem Nawaz Gardezi against PPP candidate Taj Mohammad Langah for National Assembly seat NA-187 Bahawalpur-V.
Another independent candidate, Saeed Gujjar, won NA-163 Sahiwal-IV which was vacated by PML-Q’s ally National Alliance’s chief and former president Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari.
The PML-Q candidate, Sardar Talib Nakai, was leading in NA-142 Kasur-V, which was vacated by double-seat MNA Sardar Asif Nakai.
PML-Q candidates were also elected from five out of 11 Punjab Assembly seats where by-elections were held.
According to reports reaching Lahore well after midnight, PML- Q’s Raja Basharat, a former provincial law minister, was returned to the provincial assembly from PP-110 Gujrat-III. Similarly, Mehar Fazal Husain Sumra, Amir Hayat Khan Rokhri, Haji Qaiser Amin Butt, and Saeed Akbar Niwani were elected from PP-266 Layyah-V, P-44 Mianwali-II, PP-142 Lahore-VI and PP-47 Bhakkar-I, respectively.
Two more PML-Q candidates — Sardar Dildar Ahmad Cheema from PP-61 Faisalabad-XI and Hussain Bosan from PP-200 Multan-VII — were leading over their rivals.
National Alliance’s Mohsin Leghari was leading in P-245 D.G. Khan-VI and PML-J’s Akmal Saif Chathha in PP-103 Gujranwala-XIII.
SINDH: In Sindh, the PML-Q and its allies won by- elections for three National Assembly and five provincial assembly seats.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) retained the only National Assembly seat at stake in Karachi — NA-242 Karachi-IV — where its candidate, Dr Abdul Qadir Khan Khanzada, defeated his closest rival, MMA’s Dr Merajul Huda Siddiqi by 67,051 votes to 17,818 votes.
In NA-20, Ghotki-II, which was vacated by provincial chief minister PML-Q’s Ali Nawaz Khan Mahar won by a whopping 176,188 against PPP nominee Abdul Latif Shah’s 3,120.
The by-elections concluded in Dadu, Khairpur, Shikarpur, Jacobabad and Thatta districts following the boycott of the PPP candidates amid accusations of use of the state machinery and arrests of hundreds of PPP workers.
The violence occurred in the Khairpur election.
A low turnout was reported as voters lost interest in the by-elections following the PPP boycott. However, polling in other constituencies largely remained peaceful.
PML-Q candidate Syed Sarfaraz Shah Shirazi, a brother of the provincial adviser for forest and wildlife ministry Syed Aijaz Shah Shirazi, had an easy sailing in PS-86 (Thatta-III) after Arbab Wazir Ahmed Memon of the PPP announced a boycott just hours before the start of the polling.
Both provincial assembly seats from Shikarpur district — PS- 10 Shikarpur-II and PS-12 Shikarpur IV — were won by the PML-Q’s Faiz Mohammad Khan Mahar and Abid Hussain Jatoi of the National Alliance amid a low turnout.
Two of the main contestants on both the seats, Osaid Soomro and Abdul Qadir Chachar of the PPP, had announced boycott of the by-elections on Tuesday, accusing the ruling party of wrongdoings.
Jubilant supporters of Imtiaz Ahmed Sheikh, an adviser to the Sindh chief minister, brought out a procession to mark his victory on the PS-18 seat Jacobabad-VI following Ghalib Domki’s announcement to retire from the contest hours before the polling.
Likewise, in Dadu district, Ehsan Ali Jatoi, brother of federal Industries Minister Liaquat Ali Jatoi, won the PS-76, Dadu-VI seat, vacated by his elder brother while the voter turnout remained between 15 and 20 per cent.
His main rival, Haji Zafar Ali Leghari, had already announced boycott of the elections.
Javed Ali Shah of the PML-F won NA-216, Khairpur-II, seat amid PPP allegation that 913 of its workers had been arrested. The allegation was levelled by former provincial chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah.
NWFP: The MMA continued its winning streak in the NWFP as its candidates retained both the National Assembly seats while adding one more seat to its majority in the provincial assembly.
The PPP (Sherpao) won from PF-67, D.I.Khan-IV, in district Tank, defeating the PML(Q) and MMA candidates. It, however, lost in PF-20, Charsadda-IV, vacated by party chief and federal Water and Power Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao.
According to unofficial results, MMA candidate from NA-34 Lower Dir, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Ghawas, defeated his closest rival, PPP(S) candidate Ahmad Hassan Khan, by more than 16,000 votes to retain the seat vacated by Jamaat-i-Islami Amir Qazi Hussain Ahmad.
The northern district of Dir has traditionally been a Jamaat- i-Islami stronghold.
Ghawas polled 45,815 votes against Ahmad Hassan’s 29,581 while PPP candidate Aurangzeb Khan trailed with just 1,632 votes.
In NA-25, D.I. Khan-cum-Tank, partial unofficial results from 105 of the 253 polling stations showed MMA candidate Maulana Ataur Rehman, younger brother of JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman, leading with 34,836 votes with his closest independent rival Dawar Khan Kundi trailing with 8,071 votes.
Ataur Rehman also enjoyed the backing of PPP-S, PML-N, PML-Q and other smaller groups.
In PF-67, D.I.Khan IV, PPP-S candidate Sardar Israrullah Khan Gandapur won by 3,500 votes. Results from 79 of the total 80 polling stations gave him 14,200 votes against his closest rival and PML-Q candidate Sardar Sanaullah Khan Miankhel’s 11,000 votes. MMA’s Rehmat Karim Khan Gandapur trailed with 3000 votes.
This seat was vacated by Israrullah Gandapur’s father Inayatullah Khan Gandapur who had won from two seats as an independent candidate in October.
The PPP-S, however, received a setback in its stronghold of Charsadda when it lost PF-20, Charsadda-IV, vacated by Sherpao to MMA whose candidate Maulana Mohammad Idrees, according to unofficial count, received 15,435 votes against PPP-S candidate Tariq Kamal Khan’s 6,647 votes.
Elections in all the NWFP constituencies were held in a peaceful manner with no untoward incident reported from anywhere. But the turnout remained very low.
BALOCHISTAN: The only provincial assembly seat contest in Balochistan province — PB-31 Kachhi-II — was won by National Alliance’s Shah Zaman Rind with Balochistan National Movement leader Dr Abdul Haye Baluch coming second with just 276 votes.