The polling for much-awaited local government (LG) elections in Karachi and Hyderabad Divisions is underway. The polling began at 8am and will go on till 5pm.
This is the second phase of Sindh’s LG polls which is being held in seven districts of Karachi and nine districts of the Hyderabad division, with over 3.4 million people exercising their right to vote to elect their local governments.
The grass-root level polls are finally taking place after several delays, postponements and uncertainty for one reason or another over a period of two-and-a-half years. However, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), which is one of the most popular parties in the two cities boycotted the election as their demand of holding the LG polls on new voter lists wasn’t fulfilled.
The party announced the boycott Saturday night after the failure of day-long consultations over the demand with the provincial government, which itself made the last ditch efforts earlier in the day to further delay the LG polls in Karachi and Hyderabad citing security concerns.
However, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) didn’t budge from the Sindh government’s letter to request deferral and decided to hold the polls as per schedule.
The authorities concerned ensured the presence of polling material and staff at all the polling stations by the time voting started. However, the voter turnout remained low due to cold weather in the morning.
During today’s elections, the assistant presiding officer will issue two ballot papers — green and blue — for the chairman and vice chairman union council and general members ward union council.
The polling is being held in 246 union committees in seven districts of Karachi (Central, West, East, South, Korangi, Keamari and Malir).
About 2,551 candidates are contesting the polls in Hyderabad, 1,436 in Dadu, 839 in Jamshoro, 781 in Tando Allahyar, 715 in Matiari and 452 candidates in Tando Muhammad Khan.
According to the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) spokesperson, about 8,706 polling stations have been set up for the local body polls with 1,204 for males and 1,170 for females.
As per the spokesperson, 389 are improvised polling stations.
Meanwhile, police and rangers personnel were deployed at all the polling stations to ensure security.
On Saturday, Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja said that the Election Commission, election staff and all law enforcement agencies will definitely live up to the trust of the people of Karachi and Hyderabad.
In addition to police and Rangers, Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel are also deployed outside the highly sensitive and sensitive polling station to ensure the smooth conduct of said elections.
As many as 20 FC platoons have been provided to the Sindh Police to assist in ensuring security during the LG polls in Karachi and Hyderabad, FC Commandant Salahuddin Mehsud told Geo News.
“Over 800 personnel have been given to Sindh as per the federal government’s directives,” Mehsud said.
According to the spokesperson of the provincial police, more than 43,605 law enforcement officials and personnel are performing their duties under the security plan devised by the Sindh government.
As many as 26,050 officers and personnel have been deployed on election duty at 4,997 polling stations in Karachi only, in view of security concerns and perceived threats regarding the second phase of the local government elections.
The spokesperson informed that 200 FC and 500 rangers personnel have been deployed for election duty.
All possible measures are being taken to protect the life and property of citizens, the spokesperson stated.
More than 43,605 Karachi police personnel are performing security duty on the day of polling of which 17,588 have been posted in the East zone. Meanwhile, 6,533, 4,837, and 6,218 comprising officers, personnel and staff have been deployed in the District East, Malir, and Korangi, respectively.
The spokesperson added that 11,627, 2,155, 4558 and 4914 personnel have been stationed in the South Zone, District South, District Central, and Keamari, respectively.
Deployment of officers, personnel and staffers in the West Zone, District Central, and District West totalled 14,390, 9,672, and 4,718, respectively.
About 3,800 traffic police personnel have also been performing their duties. They have been deployed to assist the administration at the polling stations.
MQM-P refuses to accept LG polls’ result
Sindh’s request to defer the polls was for the second time in as many days to placate MQM-P, which warned to quit the coalition government in the Centre if its grievances related to delimitation and voters lists were not addressed before the polls.
After the failure of talks held between MQM-P Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah at the Governor House, Siddiqui addressed a press conference flanked by other party leaders at Bahaduabad.
Siddiqui lamented that ECP was formed to conduct the election in a transparent manner, but it failed to play its constitutional role by conducting fresh delimitations. He said the ECP was going to conduct elections on fake constituencies, which “the people of Karachi would not accept the elections”.
“In an election in which voters lists are flawed, constituencies not corrected, how can we accept the results of polls? The ECP failed to properly manage the voters lists and correct the delimitations,” he said, declaring that his party refuses to accept the result of LG polls.
MQM-P’s decision was condemned by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, who said that the party’s reservations were genuine as it had approached every forum to resolve the problem of delimitation.
JI seeks free and fair polls
Meanwhile, Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) Karachi chief Hafiz Naeemur Rehman has appealed to the Karachiites to vote for the weighing scale, his party’s electoral symbol, to elect honest and capable leadership for the city, and asked the Sindh government and state institutions to ensure free and fair local government elections today.
Speaking at a press conference at Idara Noor-e-Haq, the JI Karachi headquarters, on Saturday, Rehman welcomed the ECP decision to go ahead with the polls despite the “illegal and unconstitutional pressure” it had faced to further delay the elections.
He urged the citizens to vote for the sake of Karachi and set aside their political affiliations in order to secure the future of the city of lights.
Control room up and running
The ECP has established a central control room for three days at the Islamabad Election Commission Secretariat to oversee the LG polls.