In NA-250, the Election Commission of Pakistan has said that the process will be started from scratch in those polling stations from which complaints have been received.
One polling station where rigging was blatant was Aisha Bawany Secondary School, where the presiding officer, was watching a woman place stamps on ballot papers and slipping them into the ballot box.
The constituencies falling within district West also remained turbulent throughout Saturday. What began as a smooth start to a seemingly tranquil polling day in NA-242 quickly spiraled into chaos about an hour before noon. A small bomb planted in a bus rocked the area near Shaheen school, a polling station close to Kati Pahari. Polling was immediately suspended in the surrounding polling stations.
Violence was not the only hurdle here: like other parts of the city, voters and polling staff reported blatant hijacking of the election process amid the ECP mismanagement. A group of over 50 young men stormed the Government Boys Primary School, Pirabad, and manhandled the polling staff. While talking to The Express Tribune, Farhat Ali Khan, the presiding officer, said, “They tore half the ballot papers and took away the rest of them.”
More of the same was seen at the Government Degree College in SITE. Unidentified men barged into this polling station and threatened the staff, which scurried off to a separate room some distance away from where the booths had been set up. “They said they would take me to Kati Pahari if I don’t leave the room,” said the rather frightened presiding officer. “Are we here just to count votes as these people do whatever they like?”
Meanwhile, supporters of different political parties had erected barriers along routes which connected Lyari to Kharadar. The area falls in NA-249 – the constituency where a neck-and-neck competition was expected between Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) Farooq Sattar and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stalwart Abdul Aziz Memon.
The same happened in the heart of Lyari, where PPP’s Shah Jahan Baloch was vying for the same seat as MQM’s Nabeel Gabol. But here, markets were open and people, especially youngsters were dancing to the tune of Balochi and Sindhi songs, shouting support for PPP. The area might have a reputation for violence, but it remained peaceful on polling day.
At the other end of the city, near Landhi, people didn’t even have to make it all the way to the polling station to discover that their right to vote had been snatched. “You guys don’t need to go to the polling stations as your votes have already been cast,” an activist of a political party told a couple just as they were about to head out to vote.
According to Ashraf Samo, PPP candidate, the democratic process was also derailed in Malir. Reports of the hijacking of the election process also surfaced in NA-253. Umair, a 26-year-old man who did not get to cast his vote made an appeal to the authorities to declare the votes in his constituency null and void. “You can rig all you want. Karachi will not take your rubbish this time.”
Situation in the rest of Sindh
Violence also ensued in parts of Upper Sindh, disrupting the election process here. Some party workers were bringing voters to polling stations in their vehicles. The staff complained about a lack of facilities and load-shedding during the midnight and in the early morning. In Larkana, the police arrested PPP activist Ghulam Rasool at the Baqrani tower polling station, trying to cast fake vote.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2013.