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PESHAWAR: Amid rigging allegations, the local government elections, conducted in the first phase in 17 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Sunday, turned violent, as clashes between workers of political parties were reported in a number of polling stations in Peshawar and elsewhere in the province.

Sporadic violence incidents were reported in different parts of the province during the first phase of local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, according to media reports and eyewitnesses. Voters’ body scanning was carried out by police personnel and carrying mobile phones in polling stations was strictly prohibited.

Foolproof security arrangements were taken while walkthrough gates were also installed at the entrance of most sensitive polling stations in the province. Special vehicles were hired to carry voters to polling stations away from their residential localities.

Polling agents, supporters and workers were charged and assisting the parties’ supporters about methods/ procedure of polling votes as most of voters were confused about casting the ballots.

Despite the chilling weather, the voters’ turnout remained very high as it was witnessed that male and female were waiting in long queues outside polling stations to exercise their franchising right.

Workers and supporters of political parties confronted each other and alleged rigging and change of votes in different male and female polling stations in Peshawar and elsewhere in the district and rest of K-P.

Polling began at 8am, which continued till 5pm without any break, but the voting process was partially suspended in some polling stations owing to the rigging allegations. It may be noted that over 2000 contestants have been elected unopposed in the local bodies’ elections that are being held in 17 districts of K-P.

As many as 217 candidates on general seats, 876 on women seats and 285 on farmers seat were elected unopposed while candidates on 500 youth and 154 minority seats were declared successful. The districts where elections are being held today are Buner, Bajaur, Swabi, Peshawar, Nowshera, Kohat, Karak, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Tank, Haripur, Khyber, Mohmand, Charsadda, Mardan, Hangu and Lakki Marwat.

Stringent security arrangements have been made in this regard. Some 77,000 policemen and law-enforcement personnel have been deployed outside polling stations and booths for the security of voters. CCTV cameras have been installed at sensitive locations and it is prohibited to carry weapons or electronic devices in all polling stations.

As many as 19,285 people are contesting for general seats of village, and neighbourhood councils, 3,870 for women, 7,428 for farmers and labour, 6,011 for youth and 293 for minorities. In the first phase of elections, polling is being held for two tiers of the local bodies, while the elections in the remaining 18 districts will take place on Jan 16, 2022.

A total of 19,282 candidates are contesting for the seats of general councillors at 2,359 village councils and neighbourhood councils (VCNCs), while the number of women candidates is 3,905 for the same number of VCNCs. An ANP candidate was assassinated a day before polling, and that “the members of his family accused the PTI minister of first trying to bribe him then killing him.”

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Sunday has postponed the local body elections in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Tehsil Baka Khel due to a poor law and order situation, including the abduction of police, polling personnel, and snatching at the polls.

According to a statement from the ECP, “the Deputy Commissioner Bannu and District Police Officer Bannu have inquired and reported the incident of abduction of police personnel, polling staff (including females) and snatching of different polling bags/materials at different polling stations of Tehsil Baka Khel in the district of Bannu.” Meanwhile, two people were killed while four others were injured in a suicide attack on an Awami National Party (ANP) vehicle in Bajaur tribal district, officials said on Sunday.

While talking to media, Bajaur District Police Office Samad Khan confirmed the casualties, adding that the blast occurred near the Pak-Afghan border in Sur Qamar area within Laghrey police station’s limits. He said that police and law enforcement personnel arrived at the scene following the blast.

The official dispelled the notion that the incident took place near a polling station where local government elections were under way. He said that the site of the incident was a hilly area. “The suicide bomber suddenly appeared and blew him up,” he said. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, so far.

In November, two policemen were martyred in Bajaur after an improvised explosive device (IED) was triggered during a routine patrol. The police officers were deployed near Raghagan Dam when the IED set off. The Awami National Party’s candidate contesting in the election for Dera Ismail Khan city’s mayor was shot dead, a day before polling for local government seats was scheduled to take place in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

According to police, unidentified attackers opened fire on Umar Khitab Sherani outside his residence in the limits of Model Town police station and fled. Sherani died on the spot.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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