Rawalpindi by-elections: 200 polling stations declared sensitive

Police say over 4,000 personnel will be deployed in two constituencies

View of election office of PML-N candidate for by-elections. PHOTO: AGHA MEHROZ/EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: More than 200 polling stations in Rawalpindi have been declared sensitive where personnel will be deployed in larger numbers for the by-elections on October 14.

Polls will be held in two National Assembly constituencies in Rawalpindi, NA-60 and NA-63.

General elections in NA-60 were postponed after conviction of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Hanif Abbasi in the ephedrine quota case. Whereas NA-63 constituency fell vacant after Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI)’s Ghulam Sarwar Khan vacated the seat as he had won two seats, therefore he left NA-60 and retained the other one.

Rawalpindi police have finalised security arrangements for the by-polls. There are a total of 646 polling stations in the two constituencies. Authorities have marked 76 polling stations as highly sensitive while another 125 stations have been declared sensitive. More than 4,000 personnel will be deployed for security on polling day.

The police have divided the security operations into three divisions, seven sub-divisions, 11 sectors and 45 sub-sectors. Elite Force will be on standby to respond to any emergency. Police said foolproof security will be ensured at all the polling stations particularly those declared sensitive.

All SHOs will patrol their areas throughout the day whereas officers in-charge of sectors will check and monitor security arrangements in their respective sectors.

Police said election commission’s code of conduct will be strictly enforced and nobody will be allowed to create trouble particularly during and after announcement of results. Police said celebratory firing into the air is prohibited and violators will be punished. SSP-Operations Ali Raza will supervise the overall election duty in the district while the SPs and SDPOs will supervise policing in their respective jurisdictions.

There are nine candidates in the running for NA-60 including PMLN’s Sajjad Khan and PTI’s Sheikh Rashid Rafique, who is nephew of Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid. Five candidates including PML-N’s Aqeel Malik and PTI’s Mansoor Hayat Khan are contesting by-polls in NA-63.

Elections will also be held in Islamabad’s NA-53 constituency which fell vacant after Prime Minister Imran Khan opted to keep his Mianwali seat and vacated the other four seats he had won in the general elections. There are nine candidates vying for the Islamabad seat but the real competition is between PTI’s Ali Nawaz Awan and PMLN’s Waqar Ahmed.

ECP ready

The officials of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) local chapter said that as per plan there were 370,938 registered voters for national assembly constituency of NA-63 (Rawalpindi- VII). Among them there are 195,223 male and 175,715 female voters, who would cast their votes.

To facilitate the voters, ECP has formed 317 polling stations in various parts of constituency including Taxila, Wah Cantt and some parts of Rawalpindi. Among these, as many as 134 are male, 126 female and 57 are combined polling stations. ECP has appointed as many as 711 polling officers and assistant presiding officers respectively, 317 presiding officers and 700 other supporting staff.

PML-N campaign fails to gather steam

The campaign of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Sajjad Khan for the upcoming by-election for NA-60 has remained lacklustre owing to indifferent attitude of the senior leadership and apparent want of support from the people of the constituency.

With few days left for polling on October 14, PML-N’s senior leadership has shown not much interest in NA-60’s election campaign.

Political sources said that PML-N candidate, Sajjad Khan, was facing funding constraints. Moreover, the local leadership of PML-N was shy of inviting party heads. Sources said that no one in the Rawalpindi party leadership has the courage to invite Nawaz Sharif or Maryam Nawaz to public gathering on October 12, because no one wants to answer party leaders’ questions over the 2018 election’s defeat.

Meanwhile, Sajid has brought to the knowledge of the PML-N leadership that despite being a minister, Sheikh Rasheed was participating in the campaign of his nephew, PTI’s candidate Sheikh Rashid Shafiq, which was against ECP rules. But no leader is ready to go to election commission.

Sajjad has been running election campaign with his sons and close aides, but he hasn’t been able to hold a big public gathering yet owing to lack of interest from former MNAs, MPAs and mayor Rawalpindi Sardar Naseem Khan.

Sajjad was facing severe financial restraints due to lack of funding from the party. According to the sources, PML-N workers have this concept that: “we are going to lose so there is no point of spending money.”

Source told that Sheikh Rasheed’s efforts and successful power show of Tehreek-e-Labaik Head Khadim Hussain Rizvi is giving an impression to the general votes that Sajjad Khan’s election campaign is ineffectual.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2018.


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