PPP takes clean lead in first phase of Sindh LG polls

By: Zulfiqar Ali Bhatti, Adeel Alvi, Zaheer Soomro, Rasheed Ahmad Jamali, Arif Ali Khilji

KARACHI: The PPP took a clean lead in the first phase of Sindh’s local bodies elections in 14 districts, according to unofficial results.

Sindh voted in the polls a day earlier amidst sporadic incidents of violence, clashes and at least two deaths.

According to unconfirmed and unofficial results, the ruling PPP won with a big margin, while the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) stood second, independents third, PTI fourth, and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) secured the fifth position.

The polling process started at 8am and continued until 5pm without any pause. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had announced extending voting time in areas where the polling was stopped.

The 14 districts of Sindh included 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 were 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.

PTI candidate’s brother killed

Two people, including the brother of a PTI candidate were killed and at least 20 people were injured in the clashes that broke outside various polling stations.

Tando Adam PTI Divisional President Mushtaq Junejo claimed, “I can confirm the death of Qaiser, brother of our party’s candidate Asghar Gandapur in Tando Adam. Qaiser was subjected to violence which caused his death.”

Qaiser’s brother Zafar was contesting on ward-13 of the municipal committee, Tando Adam, who was also injured in the clash. The supporters blocked the Tando Adam road as the killing sparked a protest in the district.

Director General Health Dr Juman Bahoto confirmed that the body was received in Tando Adam Taluka Hospital. He said, “The cause of death can be ascertained only after a post-mortem is conducted.”

Reports said that a clash took place between voters of PPP and PTI at polling station Allah Jurio Jaghirani of Union Council Panhwari at Rohri in district Sukkur. In the clash, Abdul Qadeer Jaghirani was killed while Abdul Samad and Abdul Majid were injured.

Election postponed in few wards over misprinting

Earlier in the day, the local body elections were postponed in a few wards due to misprinting (typographical errors) of the names of candidates in the ballot papers, confirmed a spokesperson of the ECP.

He maintained that the ECP will issue a new schedule for elections on the seats and added that the commission has launched an inquiry in this regard.

Candidates stage protest

Meanwhile, several candidates in Nawabshah staged protests over misprinting of election symbols on 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. However, the presiding officer stopped the voting process on the seat.

Violence mars elections in certain areas

Some incidents of violence, clashes, and attacks on polling officials were also 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, according to the presiding officer. Later, they fled the polling station along with the 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 incident.

In another episode of violence, seven polling staffers were abducted in the Kandhkot area of Kashmore.

In Naushero Feroze, the voting process was stopped temporarily when clashes erupted between two rival groups. At least four people were injured.

A clash also took place between two political parties in UC Trihmar in Tharpark District, according to the police. It added that both the groups had baton-charged each other.

While two candidates also fought each other in the Tehsil Kloi, leading to a few people being injured.

Meanwhile, violence between two political groups killed one person at a polling station of Tando Adam’s Municipal Committee Ward 13. The clash also injured a candidate along with 12 others.

Attack on JUI-F candidate

In Kandhkot, opponents attacked the vehicle of JUI-F leader and candidate for the municipal committee, Shoukat Malik, with batons, and broke the windscreen.

In addition to this, the ECP directed the deputy commissioners and DROs to take action over snatching election material at three polling stations in Shaheed Benazirabad District.

The central spokesperson of JUI-F slammed the ECP over its failure to fulfil its duties, adding that their party workers were targeted and the police were silent spectators.

13 arrested for riots in Pano Aqil

At least 13 people involved in riots were arrested in Pano Aqil, said a spokesperson of the ECP. He maintained that an attempt to stop the election was foiled in a timely manner.

The spokesperson further maintained that nobody will be allowed to interfere in the polling process. The polling process is underway smoothly in Pano Aqil, he added.

ECP extends polling time in certain areas

The ECP extended the polling time in areas where the polling process had to be stopped due to the violence that took place.

“Polling time will be extended in those areas where polling had to be stopped for some reason. The polling time will be extended as long as it was stopped,” said the electoral body’s spokesperson.

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 Wasim Akhtar demanded the ECP stop the ongoing election process immediately, citing: “Dacoits took away ballot boxes [from the polling stations] in Sindh.”

Referring to the misprinting in the ballot papers, the MQM-P leader raised questions about the performance of the ECP.

Pointing out the low turnout, Akhtar said that voters were frightened due to the firing, adding that fair elections could not be 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 demanded.

In addition to this, he asked the ECP to remove flaws in voter lists and revise the delimitation.

“The elections are a question mark on the PPP,” he added.

Sindh govt, ECP responsible if situation worsens: Ali Zaidi

PTI’s senior leader Ali Haider Zaidi warned that the Sindh government and the ECP would be responsible if the situation worsened in the province.

Fearing bloodshed amid the democratic process, he said that PPP used government machinery during its election campaigning, adding 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 to Bilawal Bhutto and Murad Ali Shah?” asked the PTI leader.

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 (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja was monitoring the polling process in the province.

Meanwhile, monitoring cells were 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.

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