Election Day : Few voters turn up for PK-8 by-elections

PPP raises hue and cry over joint polling stations in Khazana Bala, while elders disallow women from casting ballots

A woman casts her vote in the by-polls in Ariana village, Charsadda Road. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD IQBAL/EXPRESS

PESHAWAR: Although suitable arrangements were made by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to ensure security and convenience to the electorate, the by-polls for PK-8, Peshawar-VIII could not attract the same number of voters as the general elections in 2013.

Political party flags were fluttering in the streets of the constituency and children got a day off from schools. The district administration announced a holiday in the constituency and was strolling among the camps of contesting candidates’ supporters.

There was a strong contingent of police inside the polling station and on the roads just outside. Not a single vehicle was allowed to stop in the vicinity of the stations.

Each and every male voter was searched for weapons and mobile phones, both of which were not allowed inside. The Pakistan Army was requisitioned by the ECP and deployed inside the polling stations and their vehicles also patrolled the roads of the constituency.

Army officials were not allowing the media to get inside the polling stations. In the searing heat, supporters of candidates were seen waiting at their camps, helping prospective voters find polling booths.

A majority of the supporters said more people turned up at the start of the polling process at 8am. However, as temperatures rose, the number of voters fell.

“Voters have left because of lunch time. The number will increase by the afternoon,” said Zameer Khan, a young supporter of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl candidate Asif Iqbal Daudzai whose posters were hanging from electricity polls and even bare-conductor cables in the Maqsoodabad area of Larama union council.

Zameer, like many other supporters, was happy over the presence of the army inside polling stations as they otherwise feared rigging.

“The polling process is going very smoothly. Irrelevant people cannot even peep into the polling stations,” he said.

Women kept from voting

Pakistan Peoples Party supporters raised a hue and cry at Government High School Khazana Bala where a joint polling station was established for men and women. However, the latter were not coming forward to cast their ballots.

It reportedly turned out that the elders of the area asked women to stay home and only a few of their votes found a way into ballot boxes. Jahangir, a resident of the area, said women have been asked not to vote because of the joint polling stations.

PPP candidate Tamash Khan accused JUI-F and PTI candidates of asking people not to allow their women to come out on Election Day. He claimed the area was a PPP stronghold and the other two parties were aware of their weak position.

At noon, PPP lawmakers Nighat Orakzai, Senator Rubina Khalid, former member K-P MPA Mehar Sultana and other PPP leaders reached the area and women started appearing to cast their ballots.

When contacted, PK-8 Returning Officer Inayatullah Khan Wazir said, “There were no problems from our side due to security reasons. If women are not coming out of their homes, what can we do?”

He confirmed that the female voters started coming to the polling station later on.

Wazir added there was a lack of interest from voters. He said the turnout was “not very encouraging”.

“Neither the voters nor the candidates are that interested in the polls,” he said. Wazir added a mere 300 to 400 votes were polled at each station by 2pm. However, he said the final position would be different due to the possible heavy turnout in the afternoon.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2016.


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