KARACHI: Polling for the second phase of local government elections in 16 districts of Sindh has ended. The polling process was otherwise uneventful, except for minor clashes reported at several polling stations.
Television reports from the start of the day showed a low turnout amid single-digit morning temperatures. Turnout improved as the day progressed.
Polling began at 8am and continued till 5pm.
In a statement issued at the end of polling, Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja congratulated the provincial government, law enforcement agencies, the interior ministry and the Pakistan Army for cooperating with the election staff.
Sindh Inspector General Ghulam Nabi Memon appreciated the performance of the police, the Rangers and other law enforcement agencies in ensuring peace during the polls.
Barring minor clashes between the workers of different parties, officials said that polling in Karachi was largely peaceful amid tight security arrangements.
“Barring a few minor incidents, overall no major untoward incident was reported from anywhere in the metropolis,” Karachi Additional IG Javed Alam Odho said.
Addressing a press conference at his office, he said that the voting process was not disrupted at any polling station and congratulated law enforcement agencies for ensuring peace.
According to police, workers belonging to two political parties exchanged “hot words” at a polling station in Sultanabad area of Manghopir. Police rushed to the spot and managed to bring the situation under control.
In North Karachi’s UC-3, workers of political parties “misbehaved” with election staff, affecting the polling process for a while. Police rushed to the spot and handled the situation, following which polling resumed.
In UC-2 of New Karachi, a clash took place between the workers of two political parties, disrupting the polling process but voting resumed once police intervened.
Further, police said that a clash took place between two political parties at Nasra School in Alfalah police limits. One person was injured in the clash and the situation was brought under control.
Slogans were chanted and harsh words were exchanged between workers of rival parties at Gulshan-i-Maymar’s UC-6 and UC-8. However, police brought the situation under control after talks with the workers.
Separately, police surgeon Dr Summaiya Syed said that two injured persons were brought to different hospitals in the city, claiming to have been injured in clashes.
She said that a man was brought to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and claimed to have been hurt during a clash at UC-8 of Orangi Town’s Qasba Colony. However, Pirabad police SHO Mukhtiar Ahmed Panhwar claimed the incident had nothing to do with today’s polls.
The police surgeon said that another injured person was brought to Civil Hospital, claiming to have been injured during a clash. He was admitted for treatment.
Earlier, unrest was reported at the Bin Qasim polling station in Karachi’s Malir district.
According to Malir Senior Superintendent (SP) Irfan Bahadur, voters complained that the electoral symbol of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) was missing from the ballot papers. “Due to this, voting was stopped for a while,” he said.
Bahadur said that voting resumed when new ballot papers were brought to the polling station.
Separately, PTI Sindh MPA Firdous Shamim Naqvi visited a polling station in Karachi and shared videos that showed him removing “loose seals from ballot boxes”.
He could be seen complaining about the mismanagement and the alleged improper sealing of ballot boxes.
In his tweet, he lamented: “There is no staff present at the polling station since morning. There are five ballot boxes kept in a single room. There is no female staff present from the election commission.”
He further claimed that the presiding officer had not been trained and the seals of all the ballot boxes were open.
Criticising the ECP, he said, “This work (ensuring proper election preparations) is not the candidate’s duty.”
The video shared showed Naqvi arguing with a staff member that he was sealing the boxes “incorrectly”, upon which the staff offered to seal them correctly.
Later, the provincial election commission took notice of Naqvi’s stunt. In the notification issued, the electoral watchdog termed Naqvi’s actions to be “illegal and against the code of conduct”.
The election commission directed the officials concerned to expel the MPA from the polling station and to immediately submit a report regarding the matter.
Meanwhile, the PPP’s official Twitter account shared a letter written by Senator Taj Haider to the chief election commissioner asking him to investigate “high-handed tactics” at two polling stations in Korangi Town.
The subject of the letter highlighted the unavailability of “polling boxes/material” at the New Age Grammar School polling station, adding that “high-handed tactics” were being used at polling station 103, Sun Rise School, and 104, Government Mono technic.
The senator demanded an investigation of the “irregularities” in order to ensure “clean and transparent elections”.
The PPP wrote another letter to the ECP saying polling boxes at the Government Secondary School in UC7 of Karachi’s Dhobi Ghat were unavailable.
“Your attention is requested towards the subject matter to ensure free and fair elections,” the party added.
A low voter turnout was observed in Hyderabad. Hyderabad Deputy Commissioner Fuad Soomro told Dawn.com that polling remained smooth and no complaints were received from any quarter.
However, a “disturbance” was reported at a women’s polling station in Wahdat Colony because of a scuffle allegedly between PPP and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) supporters, he said, adding that voting is currently under way there.
Separately, women in Matiari district came out in a “fair number” to cast their votes.
Somewhat brisk polling was seen in a few constituencies of union committees in Hyderabad’s Paretabad town, involving a tripartite contest between PTI, PPP and TLP candidates.
Separately, polling was suspended in union council Bhaledino Kaka in Matiari district following a scuffle between supporters of an independent candidate and PPP.
It took place at Mahmood Chandio polling station which was considered sensitive.
A scuffle was also reported between voters of independent and PPP candidates in ward 3 and 4 of town committee Bhitshah of Matriari district.
Later in the day, the election commission issued a notice to the Sindh government for running advertisements on several television channels.
“Various development schemes are mentioned in the advertisements. The running of these advertisements on the day of local body elections is a violation of the code of conduct,” it said in a statement.
The electoral body also instructed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to stop the ads from going on air today.
Three hours into the vote, Jamaat-i-Islami’s Hafiz Naeemur Rehman spoke to reporters in Karachi, where he expressed satisfaction over the “by and large peaceful” security situation.
“I want to appreciate security forces but the Rapid Response Force should show movement,” he said. “They should be active in the populace so that the people are confident that the security situation is fine.”
He said that in some areas, some polling stations were “burned down via a conspiracy as they tried to stop the people from voting”.
“But I want to congratulate the people of Landhi and Labour Square that they still came out to vote and gave a befitting response to these terrorists.
“Only the public can combat them. If the people come out, no one will have the power to disrupt the process.”
Separately, PPP’s Saeed Ghani cast his vote in UC-8, Chanesar Town, and spoke to the media.
“After the results of local body elections in Karachi, PPP will emerge as the largest political party in the city,” Ghani said. “I have been saying for more than a year that the city of Karachi belongs to Bhutto and the results of today’s elections will prove it.”
He claimed that the mayor of Karachi would be a “jiyala of the PPP” and appealed to the people to come out and cast their votes.
Meanwhile, PTI Chairman Imran Khan urged the people of Karachi, Hyderabad and Dadu to come out and vote for their representatives.
“Their vote today is essential if they want to change their lives,” he added.
Earlier, Sindh Assembly Opposition Leader Haleem Adil Sheikh visited the PTI’s camp in Karachi’s Sohrab Goth Town in District East, which comes under UC-2.
PTI Karachi’s official Twitter account claimed that a “huge public is present at PTI’s camp”.
The video showed dozens of people gathered at the camp while Sheikh — dressed in a red coat — overviewed the camp activities, purportedly remarking: “Awesome”.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), meanwhile, announced last night that it would boycott today’s local government elections in Karachi and Hyderabad after its repeated requests for changes in the delimitation of constituencies were turned down by the electoral watchdog.
However, the party — a key government ally in the Centre that has seen its breakaway factions reunified earlier this week under the MQM-P umbrella — kept its anger confined to the local level and focused on the ECP; unlike its threat that it hurled earlier this week, the party said it wouldn’t leave the ruling coalition.