KARACHI: In what turned out to be one of the toughest electoral contests in the recent history of Ghotki district, the by-polls for the NA-205 seat witnessed a head-on competition between two members of the influential Mahar family.
By the time this report was filed, the Pakistan Peoples Party candidate Mohammad Bux Khan Mahar was leading the contest with 66,760 votes, with his opponent – the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-backed Ahmed Ali Khan Mahar – trailing with 50,890 votes, according to unofficial results from 180 polling stations. The latter is the son of former federal minister, Ali Mohammad Mahar, after whose demise the seat had fallen vacant.
Though the polls were largely conducted peacefully in the presence of Army personnel and police officials, workers and supporters of the two opposing candidates came head-on in some areas of the constituency. A case was also registered against PTI Sindh chief Haleem Adil Sheikh for attempting to interfere in the electoral process.
According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, a total of 290 polling stations were set up for the NA seat, where a total of 360,875 voters were expected to exercise their constitutional right. Almost all polling stations were declared sensitive and highly-sensitive.
“It was not only a competition between two governments [provincial and Centre], which used all their resources, but also a tough fight between two members of the Mahar family,” noted Irshad Channa, a local journalist.
Code of conduct
Both parties openly flouted the ECP’s code of conduct. PTI and PPP leaders from Karachi were present in the constituency and according to reports pouring in from Ghotki, leaders of both parties were transporting voters to polling stations.
PPP leaders alleged, however, that after the polling time ended, they weren’t provided the Form 45, as was the case in the last general elections. Form 45 is the ‘Result of the Count’, showing the number of valid votes cast for each contesting candidate.
“We are winning, but ECP officials are not giving us Form 45,” alleged PPP MPA Shabbir Bijrani. “We fear they will tamper the result,” he added.
A tough contest
The race for NA-205 became interesting when the PPP decided to field former provincial minister for sports and adviser on industries and commerce, Sardar Mohammad Bux Khan, who is also chief of the Mahar tribe, against his cousin and Ali Mohammad Khan’s son, Ahmed Ali Khan. The latter is contesting the by-election as an independent candidate, with support of the PTI and its allied parties including the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA).
The constituency has been the home turf of the Mahar family. So far, the political family has not faced defeat by any other party in the district. For the first time, the Mahar family has witnessed such a division in the elections.
Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan, flanked by PTI leader Jahangir Tareen, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and others also visited Ghotki. After the opposition criticised the PM for directly influencing the by-polls, PM Khan justified that he was in Ghotki to offer his condolence to the family of the late federal minister.
During the meeting that lasted around 30 minutes, the Mahar family also discussed the pending development schemes for the constituency and prevailing political situation in Sindh.
On the other hand, three of the PPP’s provincial ministers had resigned to be able to canvass for their candidate. Mohammad Bux Mahar, the PPP’s candidate from the constituency, was the provincial sports minister and resigned to contest the elections. Syed Nasir Hussain Shah and Abdul Bari Pitafi who are considered political heavyweights in the constituency also went as far as resigning from their offices to support Mohammad Bux’s election campaign.
PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, along with the party leadership, addressed a massive public gathering in Sukkur and asked his local leaders and supporters to vote for Muhammad Bux.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2019.