The night before re-polling in 43 polling stations of NA-250 (Karachi-XII) was set to take place, Senior Vice-President of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Sindh chapter Zahra Shahid Hussain was gunned down outside her residence.
According to police, three assailants intercepted 65-year-old Hussain as she stepped out off her car outside her house in Karachi’s DHA Phase-IV area.
“The suspects attempted to snatch her purse… they shot her after she put up resistance,” said SP Clifton Division Nasir Aftab, quoting the slain PTI leader’s driver. The suspects fled the scene following the incident, he added.
Hussain’s family immediately rushed her to a nearby private hospital.
“She received a single bullet to her chin which pierced her neck. She succumbed to her injuries during treatment,” a doctor at the health facility told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity. Hussain’s body was later moved to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre for legal formalities.
Party leaders confirmed Hussain’s death.
Targeted killing or mugging?
By the time this report was filed, police were still unclear about the motive behind Hussain’s murder. “Nothing could be said about the nature of the incident … whether it’s an act of targeted killing or a robbery bid gone awry… till the investigation is complete,” said SP Aftab.
In a statement condemning the incident, PTI chairman Imran Khan held Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain and the British government directly responsible for murder of Zahra Shahid Hussain.
“He [Altaf] openly threatened PTI workers and leaders through public broadcasts… Unfortunately, the British Government did nothing to stop his calls to violence,” Khan maintained.
“I am totally shocked and deeply saddened and still cannot believe anyone would kill such a gentle lady,” he added.
PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif was also quick to condemn the incident.
“Strongly condemn the target killing of Mrs Zahra Hussain! Culprits should be apprehended and punished ASAP – this cannot be allowed to go on,” he said on Twitter.
Talking to The Express Tribune, the PTI Media Coordinator Nasir Jamal lashed out at government authorities for failing to provide adequate protection to his party’s leaders and workers in Karachi.
Meanwhile, PML-N leader Salim Zia, who visited the hospital, demanded an independent investigation into the incident by a judge.
Re-polling in NA-250 today
Re-polling in 43 polling stations of NA-250 (Karachi-XII) will take place today (Sunday), amid tight security provided by police, Rangers and army personnel. However, very few political parties will be contesting these re-polls, as the JI declared a boycott on May 11th, while the MQM announced on Friday that they would boycott the re-polls. On Saturday night, the PPP also joined the boycott bandwagon, leaving the field clear for the PTI.
Talking to The Express Tribune on Saturday, Sindh Election Commissioner SM Tariq Qadri said that strict security measures have been taken to avert any attempts at rigging or any other untoward incident.
“I assure voters and candidates that there will be no mismanagement on our part, and free and fair elections will be held in the constituency,” he maintained, adding, “the polls will start at 8am and continue till 5pm without any break.”
Qadri said following concerns by leaders of political parties regarding the credentials of election staff, the Election Commission has appointed new presiding officers, assistant presiding officers and polling officers for the re-polls.
“Apart from the district returning officer and returning officers, the entire election staff has been changed,” he said, adding that the colours of the ballots had been switched this time around as well.
“For Sunday’s polls, white ballot paper will be used for the National Assembly seat and green ballot paper will be used for provincial assembly seats… For the May 11 elections, green ballots were used for National and white for provincial assembly seats.”
Qadri maintained the ballot boxes for the re-polls had already been prepared and transported to respective polling stations under the supervision of the armed forces. According to both Army and ECP sources, soldiers will be deployed inside the polling stations.
Re-polls in Tharparkar
ECP has also announced re-polls in 47 polling stations of two National Assembly constituencies in Tharparkar.
According to the official ECP notification on Sunday, the re-polls will be carried out in four polling stations of NA-229 (Tharparkar –I) and 43 polling stations of NA-230 (Tharparkar –II) and its corresponding Sindh Assembly constituencies – PS-62 ((Tharparkar –III) and PS-63 (Tharparkar –IV). The re-polls have been scheduled for June 1.
The commission had earlier decided to withhold the results of NA-229, NA-230, PS-62 and PS-63 following violence and allegations of widespread rigging in the constituencies. The ballot papers of more than 40 polling stations were set ablaze and a worker of a political party was killed during the violence on Election Day.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2013.