KARACHI: The PPP is leading the second phase of Sindh local body elections tinted by allegations of electoral irregularities, rigging low turnout, and an unusual delay in results from polling stations in Karachi.
Polling—which took place in 16 districts of Karachi and Hyderabad divisions in the second phase—began at 8am and continued till 5pm without any break.
As the vote count gained momentum, unofficial results started pouring in from several districts of Hyderabad division.
According to unofficial results, PPP appeared to have swept the polls in Hyderabad Division, emerging victorious on more than 726 seats. While 56 independent candidates secured seats in the division. Meanwhile, PTI bagged 50 while GDA could only manage 11 seats. JI and JUI-F claimed 10 and five seats respectively.
Taking to Twitter, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that his party had “swept” the local bodies elections in the province.
But, hours after the end of polling, results were still awaited from most districts in Karachi division, with reports of polling agents not receiving Forms 11 and 12 from presiding officers, and reporters complaining of being barred from covering the vote counting process.
Meanwhile, Ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami’s Karachi chapter Hafiz Naeem ur Rahman threatened to stage sit-in protests if the results of the local body elections were not announced on time.
He claimed that some Deputy Commissioners working in favour of the PPP-led Sindh government were interfering in the process. He said that his party had not been provided the forms even after 10pm.
“If the forms are not provided in the next one hour and the ROs do not announce the results, there will be sit-ins across the city,” he warned, adding that the party’s would announce its strategy after consultation.
Earlier, despite the demands of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and the consecutive requests of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led Sindh government to delay the polls, the local body elections were held as per the schedule.
Despite the demands of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and the consecutive requests of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led Sindh government to delay the polls, the local body elections were held as per the schedule.
Despite delaying tactics and uncertainty swirling over the holding of the final phase of the local government elections for over two years, the polling was finally held. However, the MQM-P – one of the most popular political parties in the two cities – boycotted the elections.
Yesterday, there had also been a delay in the distribution of polling materials from the dispatch centres established in all the districts of the city. However, ballot boxes, ballot paper, ink and other supplies were distributed by the evening.
Due to the deaths of 23 candidates and the election of six candidates unopposed in seven districts of Karachi, polling was held on 1,200 out of the 1,230 seats of chairman, vice chairman and ward member.
Additionally, 410 candidates were elected unopposed in the Hyderabad division, 310 in the Thatta division, and 27 candidates had died.
A total of 17,862 candidates are competing against each other out of which 9,057 are from Karachi, 6,228 from Hyderabad and 2,577 from Thatta division.
There are over four million voters in Karachi, for whom 4,990 polling stations were built. Of these 3,415 were sensitive, 1,496 were highly sensitive and 79 were declared normal.
The seven districts of Karachi Division were divided into 25 towns. District Central is the largest district with five towns and 45 union committees, where the number of registered votes is over two million.
District East is the second largest district with five towns and 43 union committees and about 1.4 million voters.
Four towns and 37 union committees were formed in Korangi where there were over 1.4 million voters. The West District consists of three towns and 33 union committees where about 0.9 million voters are registered.
There are three towns and 32 union committees in the Kemari district where the number of registered voters is 844,851. Similarly, the Malir district has three towns and 30 union committees with 743,205 voters, while the South district has two towns and 26 union committees with 995,54 voters.
According to the data, there are 1,040 candidates in Malir, 1,450 in Korangi, 1,579 in East, 876 in South, 1,144 in West, 1,781 in Central and 1,258 in Kemari district.
Irregularities in Karachi
The ruling PPP filed a complaint with the ECP regarding candidates interfering in the electoral process.
The complaint stated that in Kemari District, Maripur Town, Machar Colony, UC-6, about four polling stations are overcrowded, the polling process is slow and the candidates are disturbing the polling staff in performing duties.
The PPP requested the commission to conduct a “timely investigation” into the matter in order to “ensure free and fair elections”.
According to reports, PPP leader Salman Murad attempted to enter polling station number 202 and 203 in the metropolis.
The polling staff asked Murad to leave the station, however, despite their resistance, the PPP leader forcefully entered the station.
Shortly after, PTI workers gathered outside the polling station and the police arrived in large numbers.
Moreover, the PPP also filed a complaint with the electoral watchdog against PTI leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi for allegedly attempting to break the seal of ballot boxes in Tehsil Municiap Committee Jinnah.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) put strict security measures in place at all polling stations.
“We have deployed 43,600 cops for election duties,” said Karachi Police chief Jawaid Alam Odho, adding that only 79 polling stations were normal. He mentioned that 500 Rangers personnel will also be deployed at various locations.
CCTV cameras were also installed at sensitive and highly sensitive polling stations and a control room was set up for monitoring.
The central control room has been established for three days and will continue to function uninterrupted until the results of Sindh’s LG polls are announced. It will also issue immediate orders in case of complaints.
The electoral watchdog stated that “no interference will be tolerated during polling”, adding that “immediate action will be taken against the violators”.
MQM-P boycotts polls
In a late-night development on Saturday, the MQM-P announced boycotting the local government elections in Karachi, Hyderabad, and Thatta divisions scheduled to be held today.
“Our reservations over the delimitation of local government constituencies have not been addressed despite several assurances from the provincial government,” MQM-P convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said while addressing a news conference after attending a major huddle at the party’s Bahadurabad headquarter.
Siddiqui was accompanied by Mustafa Kamal, Farooq Sattar, Aminul Haq, Faisal Sabzwari, Sadiq Iftikhar and others.
ECP rejects Sindh’s request
A day earlier, the ECP said that the second phase of local body elections in Sindh will be held on Jan 15 as per schedule.
As per sources, the electoral watchdog once again rejected the Sindh government’s request to postpone the local body (LB) elections in Karachi and Hyderabad.
The development came after the commission held a meeting under the chairmanship of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja following a letter sent by the provincial government seeking the postponement of LB polls.
Earlier in the day, a letter issued by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government – a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune – had requested the ECP to postpone the LG polls in Karachi and Hyderabad.
The letter was sent less than 24 hours after the ECP had rejected the provincial government’s initial request for the postponement of local body polls, saying that elections will be held tomorrow as per schedule.