–Tough contest expected between PTI’s Humayun Akhtar and PML-N’s Saad Rafique in Lahore’s NA-131 seat
–PML-N’s Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to give tough time to PTI’s Ghulam Mohiuddin in Lahore’s NA-124 by-poll
ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has completed preparations for the Sunday by-polls to be held in 35 national and provincial constituencies across the country under the supervision of army personnel.
Over 9.9 million ballot papers have been printed for the by-polls in which over 100 candidates, including some big names of politics, are contesting for 35 national and provincial assembly seats.
The seats include 11 from National Assembly, nine from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly, 11 from Punjab and two each from Balochistan and Sindh assemblies.
Polling will begin at 8:00 am in the morning and continue till 5:00 pm without any break.
According to data provided by Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), over 5 million registered voters, including 2.3 million women and over 2.7 million men, will cast their votes in 7,489 polling stations across the country, of which 1,727 polling stations have been declared sensitive.
According to details shared by the ECP, 848 out of total 5,193 polling stations in Punjab, 544 of total 1,555 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 201 of total 544 in Sindh and 134 of total 197 in Balochistan have been classified as ‘highly sensitive’.
An official of the ECP said that security cameras had been installed at all the sensitive polling stations which would be guarded by army troops. He said deployment of troops was started on Friday and that the troops would remain deployed there till October 15, a day after the polling.
The designated in-charges of army personnel deployed in and outside the polling stations will enjoy the powers of a magistrate first class during the entire period of their deployment and will be empowered to summarily try those found involved in impersonation, capturing of polling stations or violation of other relevant provisions of the law.
District returning officers and returning officers for the by-elections have also been given powers of magistrate first class.
According to reports, 40,000 army personnel will be performing duties at polling stations, while around 100,000 police personnel will be performing their duties on polling day.
According to ECP, army personnel will be posted inside and outside the polling stations to deal with any untoward situation. Ballot papers and other polls related material will be dispatched under the supervision of army personnel.
Directives have also been issued to the power ministry to not go for load shedding during poll timings.
ECP has also issued a code of conduct for the security staff to follow. The security staff will be answerable to the presiding officer and the returning officers (RO) and will not interfere during the counting process.
ECP spokesperson stated that the ballot papers have been handed over to the presiding officers under the supervision of army personnel.
“641 candidates submitted their nomination papers for the by-elections but only 372 will be contesting,” the spokesperson further said.
The campaign time for the candidates ended on Friday midnight as they increased the pace of their campaigns during past week.
In Lahore’s NA-131, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Hamayun Akhtar and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Saad Rafique will face each other on Sunday.
Meanwhile, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will face PTI’s Ghulam Mohiuddin in NA-124.
In Karachi, PTI is expected to face tough competition from its ally Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P).
This will be the first time that overseas Pakistanis will cast their votes in the by-polls.
Earlier on Thursday, ECP established 27 monitoring teams to monitor the by-elections. The teams will examine the distribution of polling equipment and training of the polling staff. Further, these teams will check the security arrangements inside the polling stations, votes of overseas Pakistan and the result transmission system (RTS).