An armed clash between supporters of rival political parties left at least 12 people dead and 15 injured during the much-awaited local government elections in Sindh on Saturday.
A heated debate broke out between supporters of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and rival Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) when some men tried to enter a women’s polling station in Waryo Wahan village near Ranipur.
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Push came to shove, and shove came to a gunfight. When the firing ceased, 11 people lay dead and 16 wounded. The injured were driven to different hospitals of the district where one of them expired. Police and Rangers called in reinforcements to quell the melee.
Commissioner Muhammad Abbas Baloch told The Express Tribune that some supporters of a political party had come to visit the polling station when local residents opened fire on them. He did not name the party, though. “It’s difficult to say what triggered the armed clash,” he added.
Khairpur, the hometown of Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, was declared ‘most sensitive’ by the polling staff keeping in view some bitter past experiences. Soldiers were also deployed at some ‘very sensitive’ polling stations in the eight districts of the province that went to polls on Saturday after a gap of 10 years.
IGP Ghulam Hyder Jamali has constituted a three-member committee, headed by Counter-Terrorism Department’s AIG Sanaullah Abbasi, to investigate the incident. The SSPs of Khairpur and Sukkur are members of the committee.
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Elsewhere in the province, dozens of political workers were injured in scuffles with supporters of rival candidates.
In Kandhkot, three men, including an independent candidate named Abdul Latif Khoso, were wounded in a fistfight with the supporters of PPP at Ward No 2 of Workshop polling station. Another brawl between rival groups in Kashmore left six people injured at Moro Mazari polling station of Gulanpur union council.
In Jacobabad’s Thull town, more than a dozen people suffered injuries in a free-for-all at three polling stations of Logi union council. Rangers also arrested an assistant presiding officer for ‘stealing ballot papers’. Three men were wounded when gunshots were fired outside the Ali Nawaz Panhwar polling station and union councils 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. The Rangers have detained three armed suspects. An assistant presiding officer was also arrested for stamping ballot papers.
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Brawls were also reported at several polling stations in Khairpur district. A PML-F candidate boycotted the polling process at Luqman polling station.
A DSP in Khairpur Mirs was caught red-handed by the Rangers while stamping ballot papers inside the Khemtia polling station. He was in Rangers’ custody till this report was written. A female political activist belonging to an influential tribe of Khairpur was pictured rigging the elections, but she managed to flee the scene.
An assistant presiding officer, Muharram Ali Kalhoro, was kidnapped from a polling station that falls within Gambat municipal committee jurisdiction. The officer was taken away by activists of a political party, a polling officer said off the record.
Another clash took place in Larkana’s Seehar town among supporters of the PPP and Unar panel candidates. The Rangers was called in to control the situation.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2015.
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