Situation became tense in the NA-249 constituency late Thursday night after results kept on swinging in favour of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Miftah Ismail and rival Qadir Khan Mandokhel of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
The vote count began after a peaceful polling, and the result started pouring in from various polling stations. It was earlier announced that PML-N candidate Ismail was in the lead against PPP’s Mandokhel.
Assuming that the Ismail’s lead would hold till the final count, the PML-N leaders and supporters started celebrating. Even Vice President Maryam Nawaz took to Twitter to claim victory of her party in the by-election.
However, when more results came in, PPP’s Mandokhel, not only wiped out the Ismail’s lead but also gained an edge over him. This irked the PLM-N supporters. They alleged that the results had been stopped from various polling stations and that two polling officers had left without giving the results.
Outside PMLN election office Baldia NA 249 🐅 pic.twitter.com/uO2YEluyYj— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) April 29, 2021
After the reports of suspension of the results, a large number of the PML-N, PPP and other parties’ workers reached the office of the district returning officer (DRO) and started protesting. Given a tense situation, police and Rangers reached the spot to control the situation.
“The process has been slowed and we will not leave the office till we receive complete results,” Ismail said. Maryam tweeted again, saying that the PML-N was winning with a clear lead but the results were stopped for a while.
“Suddenly, there is a clear difference in the results. I’m giving a warning … remember if the results are changed, the PML-N will not let you devour this seat. The PML-N has now learned to take its right,” she added.
Election Commission spokesperson Altaf Ahmed said, “All presiding officers have arrived at the returning officer's office with Form 45. The returning officer is compiling the result as per Form 45.”
He said that reports regarding delay in the results are not true.
“The chief election commissioner is present at the Central Control [Room],”the spokesperson said. “According to Form 45, the election commission will issue Form 47 as soon as the results are compiled.”
The seat fell vacant after PTI MNA Faisal Vawda resigned after becoming a senator. According to the election commission officials, there were 339,591 registered voters in the constituency.“A significantly low turnout was witnessed in the by-election. At many polling stations the turnout was 3 to 5%.”
The voting was held in a peaceful manner except for a minor clash between supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and the PTI workers. During the voting, the workers and leaders of different political parties bluntly violated the election commission code of conduct.
The lawmakers were seen visiting the polling stations and transporting the voters in their vehicles to cast the votes, which compelled the returning officer to expel a few Sindh Assembly members from the constituency.
In the 2018 general election, Vawda got 35,344 votes against PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, who trailed closely behind with 34,626 votes. Sharif, who lost the National Assembly seat by 723 votes, had alleged that his 8,000 votes were cancelled to pave way for the PTI candidate’s victory.
At that time, the MQM-P candidate was polled 13,534 votes, while PPP’s Mandokhail had been able to muster just 7,236 votes in the constituency, which were lower than the TLP candidate who had secured 23,981 votes.
This time, however, it appeared that there was a close contest between Mandokhel and PML-N’s Ismail. Other candidates in the fray were Mustafa Kamal of the Pak Sarzameen Party, Amjad Afridi of the PTI, Muhammad Mursaleen of the MQM-P and Mufti Nazeer Ahmed Kamalvi of the outlawed TLP.
Till filing of this report, the results from 132 polling stations out of a total of 276 showed that Ismail was leading with 7,649 votes, while Mandokhel was trailing behind with 7,018.