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KARACHI: On Sunday the much delayed local bodies elections were held in Karachi, and Hyderabad divisions amid a dismal voter turnout. In Karachi three main political parties, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) were the main contenders. The JI and PPP claimed their victories as the announcement of results was painfully slow.

As per details, the 2nd phase of the long-delayed local government elections in Sindh was held on Sunday. Karachi Division witnessed low voter turnout, amid MQM’s boycott. However, delay in declaration of results posed a question mark over the transparency of electoral process, and performance of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

As the JI and the PPP claimed their victory in the polls, the MQM-P said ‘low voter turnout’ was the victory of its decision to boycott.

LG polls in Karachi, Hyderabad to go ahead on Jan 15: ECP

Of the total 246 union committees of chairman, vice chairman and general members in the megacity, the ECP was able to declare results of only 20 union committees by midnight, with JI bagging 9 slots, PPP 6, and PTI 5 till filing of the report, according to unofficial unconfirmed results.

Jamaat-e-Islami Karachi chapter chief and the mayoral candidate Hafiz Naeem won from a UC of North Nazimabad. PTI’s candidate for Mayor Karachi Khurram Sher Zaman lost his Union Committee in Saddar town to Najmi Alam of the PPP while Firdous Shamim Naqvi, PTI’s second mayoral contender, was facing tough competition from his opponents in a Soldier Bazaar UC.

Hafiz Naeemur Rehman held an emergency press conference regarding the inordinate delay in result declaration from Karachi’s polling stations, and blamed that some DCs are behind it. “Constitutionally and legally, Presiding Officer is bound to issue Forms 11 and 12. We will not allow rigging under any circumstances. If the forms are not released immediately, JI will hold sit-ins in the entire city,” Rehman said.

The claim was rejected by the Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab who said JI is used to doing politics of blame game and protests.

Voter turnout remained comparatively thin in Karachi primarily due to harsh weather, and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s (MQM-P) boycott. However, the Sindh Minister for Information Sharjeel Inam Memon said that the voter turnout was fine.

MQM, the major political stakeholder, and key government ally in the Centre boycotted the LG polls in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions in protest against Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to turn down its requests for changes in delimitations.

The polling process continued largely in peaceful manner; however clashes among workers of opponent parties were reported from Landhi, Malir, Mehmoodabad, Baldia, Gulshan-Maymar, Orangi Town’s Qasba Colony, etc.

ECP took notice of PTI leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi action for allegedly breaking the seal of ballot boxes, and issued orders to expel Naqvi from the polling station.

Of the total 4,997 polling stations set up in the megacity, some 3,415 were declared as sensitive, 1,496 highly sensitive and 79 as normal.

The provincial government ensured strict security arrangements with deployment of police and paramilitary rangers to maintain law and order. Over 43,605 policemen performed security duty while quick response force of 700 Rangers personnel was also deployed in different areas of the city to handle any untoward incident.

Besides, close circuit television (CCTV) cameras were installed to ensure transparency of the voting process at polling stations.

Thousands of candidates contested for chairman and vice-chairman of the union committee and general members.

Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja in a statement felicitated the Sindh government, law enforcement agencies, the interior ministry and the Pakistan Army for cooperating with the election staff.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and Inspector General Ghulam Nabi Memon also hailed the performance of the police, the paramilitary Rangers and other law enforcement agencies for ensuring peace in the city.

PTI Sindh President Ali Zaidi and Emir JI Karachi Hafiz Naeemur Rehman had demanded an extension of two hours in the polling time, saying the polling started at 10 am instead 8am at different areas. However the ECP turned down their demand as polling came to an end after 5pm.

JI Karachi chief claimed that some people burned the camps in some areas; however, voters are still reaching their respective polling stations. “No untoward incident has been reported from District Central and East,” he added.

Meanwhile, ECP took notice of ‘irresponsible’ statements made by some political parties. In a statement, ECP said Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah is equal to misguiding the people and it shows his lack of awareness regarding the election laws. The ECP conducted the delimitation process in a transparent way.

MQM-P Convener Dr Khalid Maqbool along with the party’s senior leadership said that the local bodies’ elections have already been rigged. “Accordingly, we refuse to recognize the polls,” he said.

Addressing a press conference on Sunday evening, Siddiqui said that Karachi and Hyderabad have won, and rigging has lost. He said that Karachi was “deprived of 70 union councils”.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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