SARGODHA: Voting for the by-elections being held in PP34 Sargodha began at 8am on Monday. A total of 112 polling stations were set up in the district, including 57 for men and 55 for women.
A tough contest was witnessed between Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Tabraiz Gill, independent candidate Ijaz Ahmed Kahloon and Fayyaz Ahmed another independent candidate. A close and heated race was witnessed between Kahloon and Gill.
The district police declared 36 of the polling stations as sensitive and special squads remained deployed on the spot to maintain peace throughout the day. However several charges of cheating and foul play were brought up against PML-N supporters by independent candidate Kahloon and his supporters. “There have been over five incidents of attempts for double votes to be cast and each time this was in favour of PML-N candidate Tabraiz Gill,” Kahloon said, adding that the PML-N appeared to be using the government machinery at its disposal to sway the situation in favour of its candidate.
Several incidents of cheating were reported from polling stations 95, 93 and 46 Shumali, where PML-N supporters Mohammad Imtiaz (voting number 560) tried to cast his vote four times, Mohammad Mansoor (voting number 209) tried to cast his vote twice and Mohammad Syed tried to cast his vote in support of the PML-N six times before Kahloon’s supporters captured the man and handed him over to Cantt police station. “The police released all three men minutes after we handed them over and no cases were registered,” Kahloon supporter, Rashid Niyaz said, adding that the authorities seemed unwilling to register any cases for official record. Polling was temporarily stopped at the 46 Shumali polling station but was resumed within the hour.
Upon the news of cheating attempts by several voters a verbal spat broke out between the independent candidate Kahloon and PML- N candidate Gill.
“Kahloon’s supporters realise that they have lost the polls and they are trying to deflect their defeat by blaming the PML-N,” Gill said. “We will prevail despite all these attempts, my opponent thinks that he has the government machinery behind him but I have the people behind me,” Kahloon said.
Several skirmishes broke out between the PML-N league and Kahloon supporters at four polling stations and the independent candidate’s brother had several skirmishes at four different polling stations. Mumtaz Ahmed Kahloon, the candidate’s brother said that police had released all the people who were caught cheating in the polls. “There were times when we would hand someone over and by the time we turned our backs the culprits had already been released,” he said.
Mumtaz said that it appeared the PML-N had bought off police in the entire district to support its candidate, “the police officers were merely standing there like statues. They only reacted to violence, they didn’t bat an eyelid when it came to cheating,” he said.
District police officer (DPO) Nasir said that special police squads had been deployed to maintain calm in the area. “It was not our duty to interfere in the results or the polling process and that is what we did,” he said, adding that no cheating had taken place.
Independent candidate Ijaz Ahmed Kahloon won the PP34 polls by a lead of 1,280 votes. PML-N candidate Tabraiz Gill came in second.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2010.
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