PESHAWAR: Polling for by-election to three National Assembly (NA) seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Sunday was punctuated by some minor clashes between workers of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Awami National Party (ANP). However, apart from the clashes in Peshawar the polling process remained peaceful in the constituencies of NA-31 (Peshawar-V), NA-22 (Mardan-III), and NA-24 (Charsadda-II).
According to sources, at the polling station set up at the Municipal Girls Intermediate College in Peshawar there was a bitter exchange between PTI Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) Asif Khan and ANP workers.
The ANP workers got angry on the arrival of the MPA at the polling station and they began raising slogans against the lawmaker. When the situation threatened to go out of control, the police had to intervene.
The police personnel ultimately managed to remove the workers of both the parties from the polling station. The polling process was halted for a while but it was resumed after the police action.
A scuffle also broke out between guards of the PTI mayor and police personnel outside the college. A policeman was injured during the altercation.
The police arrested a guard and transferred him to the Faqirabad police station.
According to the first information report filed about the incident, the guards misbehaved with government officials. The FIR mentions the wrongful display of arms.
An altercation also occurred at the city’s Shaheed Hasanain School, resulting in a PTI worker getting injured. Police personnel present on the spot, however, defused the situation immediately and detained two political workers.
The ANP workers claimed that their opponents were trying to influence the electoral process wrongfully.
SP Abdul Salam Khalid told media that the situation was under control, adding that more police personnel had been deployed to ensure security.
“It’s an election day and minor bickering will occur, but the issues have been resolved. We also involved local elders who assured police of their role in ensuring free and fair elections,” he said.
A clash between the ANP and PTI polling agents was also reported at Peshawar’s number one polling station. The police reached the spot and asked workers to leave the premises.
Meanwhile, some media reports said that ANP’s Samar Haroon Bilour had posted a video clip of herself flashing a thumbs-up after casting her ballot. The clip was later removed.
According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the polling began at around 8am and continued uninterrupted till 5pm.
Workers of different political parties, especially young men, gathered outside the polling stations in the morning to vote and then support their candidates. There was generally a friendly atmosphere.
Flags of various parties were hoisted and posters of different candidates displayed along the roads leading to the polling booths and stations in the city areas. There was a great zeal and zest among voters to exercise their franchise.
Strict security measures were taken in an effort to ensure peaceful polling at the 979 polling stations, of which 745 had been declared as “highly sensitive” and 234 as “sensitive”.
In the NA-22 constituency, PTI’s Imran Khan was up against JUI-F’s Mohammad Qasim. In NA-24, the PTI chief was facing ANP’s provincial chief Aimal Wali Khan. A tough contest was underway in NA-31 between Mr Khan and ANP’s Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour.
In Peshawar’s NA-31 constituency, the turnout remained high as men and women were witnessed standing in long queues outside the polling booths and polling stations.
Police personnel frisked voters before allowing them to enter the polling booths and stations, while walk-through gates were installed at some polling stations in Peshawar.
Returning Officer Saeed Ahmed said agents of political parties were present at every booth and the counting process would also be done under their supervision. “The election staff is bound to give the copy of Form 45 to the polling agent and Election Commission,” he added.
According to the ECP, 1.45 million people, including 808,038 men and 642,651 women, were eligible to cast votes in the by-polls.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022