HYDERABAD: The past hostilities between the Pakistan Peoples Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement have started resurfacing again as the day of election draws closer – the PPP candidates have accused the MQM of having set the ground for rigging the polls.
At a press conference on Sunday, the candidates contesting from the National Assembly and Sindh Assembly constituencies in Hyderabad alleged that more than 30 polling stations have been changed to favour the MQM. “We have repeatedly complained to the District Returning Officer, judge Hassan Feroze, but he is behaving like MQM’s advocate or worker,” said Zahid Bhurgari, the former provincial minister and PPP’s district president.
They also complained that the police officers who were caught filling ballot boxes for MQM in the 2008 elections have been posted again to rig the elections. “We do not trust the Hyderabad police. The ECP should deploy Rangers inside the polling stations and the army outside them.”
Bhurgari said that the postings of DSP Ayub Durrani and SHOs Rao Nazim, Salman Farooqi, Wahid Bux and Tariq Khanzada in Hyderabad have been done in violation of the recent Supreme Court judgment. The court had ordered the police officers to be posted outside the districts of their domicile.
There are three NA and six PS seats in Hyderabad. Historically, the constituencies dominated by Urdu-speaking people vote for the MQM candidates while the PPP candidates are elected from the ones with a majority of Sindhis. However, there have been exceptions when the MQM lost some constituencies to the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal in 2002.
PPP’s candidate from Qasimabad-based PS-47 constituency, Jam Khan Shoro, has reportedly submitted a written complaint twice to the DRO, alleging that 14 polling stations in his area have been changed to give advantage to the MQM. “The scale of rigging is such that two polling stations of PS-47 have been set up in the areas under PS-45 constituency – which is an MQM stronghold,” said Shoro. He added that one of these stations will be established in the Paretabad government hospital which is in PS-45. “The election code says that a polling station should be within two kilometres radius of the voters. But the ones in my area have been set up as far as three to eight kilometres away.”
The MQM’s Deputy Convenor Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui strongly rebutted the allegations against his party. “Our central leadership had decided that we will sort out our matters without making them public. But they [PPP candidates] are violating the understanding,” he told The Express Tribune, claiming that no PPP candidate has ever approached them with these complaints. Siddiqui said they should rather protest against the caretaker government which is responsible for all the transfers and postings. “We neither demand nor opposed the removal of DRO from Hyderabad,” he replied when asked about his party’s stance over the PPP’s demand. He lamented that these public complaints against the MQM by the former coalition partner were ‘sad and unfortunate’. “We [MQM] have been the target of terrorism – instead of campaigning we are burying our martyred workers.”
The PPP, however, was not alone in charging the MQM with trying to rig the polls. Similar complaints came from the candidates of the 10-party alliance. The former MNA Sahibzada Muhammad Zubair, who is a candidate from from NA-220, accused the party of harassing his workers.
The alliance’s PS-47 candidate, Ayaz Palijo, also claimed that the polling stations of his constituency have been changed to favour the MQM. But he describes the turf war between the PPP and MQM as ‘phoney’. “They always try to win the hate vote against each other – the PPP from Sindhis and MQM from Urdu-speaking people. They have resorted to the same theatrics as before.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2013.