Balloting has ended for Azad Jammu Kashmir elections across the country amid violence and rigging allegations. The vote count is currently ongoing.
The elections sparked widespread violence with reports of two people being killed in Mirpur and Muzzafarabad.
Also in Lahore, voting for LA-37 was cancelled by the Election Commission after workers of the PPP and PML-N clashed with each other.
More than 2.9 million voters were expected to take part in the elections. In Lahore, 13 polling stations were set up and at least 600 police officials were deployed to provide security to up to 6,000 voters in the city.
Eight polling stations were set up in Multan, Bahawalpur, Vehari, Rahimyar Khan, Layyah and Muzaffargarh, where around 18,000 people were expected to cast their votes.
Polling took place in Faisalabad and Jhang, with three polling stations in each city. Polling also took place in 18 districts of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, including Peshawar, Chitral, Dir, Mardan and Dera Ismail Khan.
Around 3,200 Kashmiri refugees were expected to cast their votes in the province.
Updated from print edition (below)
Pre-election: Rigging feared in Punjab seats
As the Kashmiri diaspora in Punjab goes to the polls on Sunday (today), fears of a rigged vote have compounded after reports emerged that the Punjab government had sought to use a combination of threats and favours to influence the officials supervising the election.
Sources said that Punjab Education Minister Mian Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman, along with members of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s staff, have met with many of the presiding officers at various booths, most of whom belong to the Punjab Education Department, and asked them to facilitate any PML-N legislator who visits their polling booth.
Several of the officers, who teach at urban educational institutions, told The Express Tribune that they have been threatened with transfers to rural positions if they do not cooperate with PML-N officials. Some even said that they were given names of people to whom they were instructed to hand over the charge of the polling booths they are supposed to be supervising.
Sources familiar with the matter say that nearly all presiding officers have been provided luxurious meals and accommodation at guest houses owned by the Punjab government, though their mobile phones were reportedly taken away from them.
Meanwhile, a row has erupted between the federal and Punjab governments as Lahore has, at the last minute, sought to replace most of the federal employees supervising the election with those who work for the Punjab civil service.
Sources said that the Punjab government has asked the AJK Election Commission to replace nearly all federal employees supervising the polls, most of whom work for the Evacuee Trust Property Board, with employees of the Punjab government “in the larger interests of the province.”
While the AJK Election Commission is responsible for supervising the overall election, the polls for the eight seats that represent the Kashmiri diaspora in Punjab – numbering over half a million – is operationally within the hands of the Punjab division of the Election Commission of Pakistan. Sources say that the Punjab ECP has been instructed to ensure that a majority of officials appointed to supervise polling booths belong to the Punjab government.
The Punjab government’s spokesperson, Senator Pervaiz Rashid of the PML-N, did not return The Express Tribune’s calls seeking comment on these allegations.
Of the 41 elected seats in the AJK Legislative Assembly, 12 are elected by Kashmiris living in Pakistan. Six of those seats go to Kashmiris who have moved to Pakistan from AJK, while six are elected by Kashmiris who migrated from Indian-held Kashmir after Partition in 1947.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2011.
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