KARACHI: Counting of votes is underway in the elections being held in the first phase of local government polls in 14 districts from four divisions of Sindh.
The polling process was hit by a few incidents of violence and clashes among the workers of different political parties.
The polling began at 8am and continued until 5pm without any pause. The ECP has announced extending the voting time in areas where the polling was stopped due to some reason.
The 14 districts of Sindh include Larkana, Kambar-Shahdadkot, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Kashmore, Sukkur, Ghotki, Khairpur, Naushehro Feroze, Shaheed Benazirabad, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Umerkot and Tharparkar.
Elections in the rest of the districts of Sindh will be held on July 24.
At least 21,298 candidates are in the field against 6,277 seats of 101 town committees, 23 municipal committees, 14 district councils, four municipal corporations, eleven town municipal corporations and 887 union councils and union committees.
Election postponed in few wards over misprinting
The local body elections were postponed in a few wards due to misprinting (typographical error) of the names of candidates in the ballot papers, confirmed a spokesperson of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
He maintained that the ECP will issue a new schedule for elections on the seats. The spokesperson said that the ECP has launched an inquiry in this regard.
Candidates stage protest
Meanwhile, several candidates in Nawabshah staged protests over misprinting of election symbols in the ballot papers. A TLP candidate was of the view that he was allotted the symbol of a “crane” but it was printed as a “queen” in the ballot papers. The presiding officer stopped the voting process on the seat.
It is pertinent to mention here that the election commission has established 9,023 polling stations, including 1,895 for women, to facilitate over 11 million registered voters.
According to a spokesperson of the ECP, Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja is monitoring the polling process in the province.
Meanwhile, monitoring cells have been established in Islamabad and at the office of the Sindh election commissioner to ensure transparent elections, the spokesperson added.
In addition to this, at least 1,985 polling stations have been declared highly sensitive and 3,448 sensitive. Paramilitary Rangers and police have been deployed at 2,980 highly sensitive polling stations across the province.
CCTV cameras have been installed at the most sensitive polling stations.
Violence mars elections in some areas
Some incidents of violence, clashes and attacks on the polling officials were reported in different areas of the province.
The situation became tense when a group of armed people attacked the social security polling station in Nawabshah and held the polling staff hostage, said the presiding officer. Later, they fled the polling station with election material, he added.
Regional Election Commissioner Naveed Aziz informed in writing to the concerned SSP about the incident.
When contacted, SSP Saud Magsi said that the police have registered a case against 15 people for their alleged involvement in the case.
In another incident of violence, seven polling staffers were abducted in Kandh Kot area of Kashmore.
In Naushahro Feroze, the voting process was stopped temporarily when clashes erupted between two rival groups. At least four people were injured in the incident.
The ECP directed the deputy commissioners and district returning officer to take action over the snatching of election material at three polling stations in Shaheed Benazirabad District.
Attack on JUI-F candidate
In Kandh Kot, opponents attacked the vehicle of JUI-F leader and candidate for the municipal committee, Shoukat Malik, with batons, breaking its windscreen.
13 arrested for riots in Pano Aqil
At least 13 people, involved in riots, have been arrested in Pano Aqil, said a spokesperson of the ECP. He maintained that an attempt to stop elections has been foiled by the ECP’s timely action.
He maintained that nobody will be allowed to interfere in the polling process. The polling process is underway smoothly in Pano Aqil, he added.
MQM demands ECP stop elections immediately
Expressing severe concerns over the incidents of violence in the province, MQM-P senior leader and former Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar demanded of the ECP to stop the election immediately, saying “dacoits took away ballot boxes [from the polling stations] in Sindh.”
Referring to misprinting in the ballot papers, the MQM-P leader raised questions over the performance of the ECP.
Pointing out the low turnout, Akhtar said that voters are frightened due to firing, adding that fair elections are not possible in this situation.
“Local body elections in Nawabshah and Mirpur Khas should be stopped as rigging is in full swing in these areas,” he claimed.
In addition to this, he demanded of the ECP to remove flaws in voter lists and revise the delimitation of constituencies.
“The elections are a question mark over the PPP,” he added.
Sindh govt, ECP to be responsible if situation worsens: Ali Zaidi
Fearing bloodshed amid the democratic process, PTI leader Ali Haider Zaidi has warned that the Sindh government and the ECP would be responsible if the situation worsened in the province.
He alleged that PPP used the government machinery during its election campaigning.
He said that Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah “violated” the ECP’s laws by staging a public meeting in Larkana.
“Have the ECP served notices on Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Murad Ali Shah?” asked the PTI leader.