Free and fair polls: Security dominates elections in NA-246

Nearly a dozen arrested during voting process.


Photo Athar Khan/faraz Khan April 23, 2015
An officer of the paramilitary force looks at the security camera footage at a polling station as the votes were being cast on Thursday. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI:


Law enforcement agencies detained nearly a dozen people, including two presiding officers, during the by-polls in the NA-246 constituency. Police and Rangers personnel, however, only confirmed the arrest of five people.


The Rangers arrested two people, including a presiding officer who was allegedly trying to cast bogus votes at the Delhi School. The Rangers spokesperson said that the presiding officer, Syed Majid Ali, was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment and fined Rs5,000 while a voter, Rehman Ahmed was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and fined Rs5,000. “The sentence and fine was awarded by the Rangers using magisterial powers,” the spokesperson explained.

Separately, an assistant presiding officer, Javed Siddiqui and a man, identified as Abdul Bari, were taken into custody from Zubaida Hajiani School located at Sharifabad while a female assistant presiding officer, Shah Sultana, was taken into custody from polling station 159. Siddiqui was accused of issuing bogus ballot papers while Sultana was accused of giving the voters’ stamp to an unauthorised person.

A polling agent whose name was not disclosed was also apprehended from polling station 105 after a woman took away the voting stamp with her. Two suspected political workers were taken into custody for allegedly threatening the presiding officer at the KDA School in Dastagir.



Central Zone DIG Feroz Shah, while addressing a press conference, informed the media that a total of five people were arrested. He also clarified allegations against the police. “It is a wrong impression that the police used delaying tactics or were involved in rigging,” he said.

Security measures

A large contingent of Rangers and police personnel was deployed across the constituency. A Rangers van was stationed inside and outside each station. At least two Rangers personnel were present in each presiding officer’s room while two others monitored the votes being cast at the booths. One Rangers official stood guard at the entrance of each room.

Along with the police, the Rangers personnel verified the documents of each voter before allowing them to enter the polling stations. Media personnel were not allowed inside most of the polling stations. In some where access was granted, the Rangers personnel allowed them in one by one, after matching their CNICs with the identification cards issued by the election commission.

Superior powers

On the other hand, several voters complained that the Rangers seemed to have taken over the electoral process and were using delaying tactics. “The presiding officers sat tight-lipped while the Rangers personnel acted as presiding officers,” said a woman, Shazia, who cast her vote at the APWA College. “The Rangers took the ballot paper from us and asked us to go back home saying they will cast the vote themselves.”

The Rangers, however, denied any such incident. “Everything is good. We have been ordered to ensure transparent elections,” said a Rangers personnel deployed at Sirajuddaula College at FC Area.

The election commission too seemed satisfied with the law and order situation in the constituency. “The Rangers have made the plans regarding the deployment of troops to make the elections transparent. They decided how many personnel were to be deployed inside or outside the polling stations,” said acting provincial election commissioner, Tanvir Zaki. In response to a question, he said that the election commission had not received any complaints about the Rangers acting as presiding officers.

Trouble at Karimabad

Meanwhile, the peaceful atmosphere that was jealously guarded by the law enforcers throughout the day was finally shattered when workers and supporters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) attempted to tear down the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) camp at Karimabad.

The miscreants burned down the PTI flags and tore the banners that had been put up for the election campaign. Several MQM leaders rushed to the site to calm the situation but the crowd was relentless. With the police too unable to control the situation, a large contingent of Rangers arrived at the site and baton-charged the miscreants. They dispersed momentarily but came back in larger numbers later. At least a dozen suspects were detained by the law enforcers by the time this report was filed.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2015.

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