HYDERABAD: Thousands of supporters of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional laid a token siege outside the office of the district returning officer (DRO) on Thursday.
Charging the DRO of favouring the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), they complained against changes in the polling stations and the voter lists, appointment of partial polling staff and the police. “The returning officers and administration are supporting the PPP. We can’t expect fair elections in such a situation,” said former federal minister Haji Khuda Bux Rajar. The roads and markets in Sanghar town remained choked until the sit-in concluded after a dialogue between the leaders and deputy commissioner Umer Farooq Bulo and SSP Abdul Salam Shaikh.
Rajar bemoaned that the PPP and the provincial bureaucracy is considering the PML-F’s response to the Daraza killings as their weakness. “We are silent just because the Pir Sahib Pagara has asked so.”
Sanghar is one of the five districts in Sindh that are reportedly under review of the ECP for postponement of the elections due to the security concerns. MPA Waryam Fakir claimed that a large number of 696 presiding officers in Sanghar are below BPS-17 officials, which is a violation of the rules. He complained that the male and female voters of one area have been shifted to distant polling stations instead of keeping them at one place.
“We have still not been given the polling lists,” claimed MPA Saeed Khan Nizamani.
After hours of the sit-in, the PML-F leaders were called for negotiations at DC House. DC Bulo reportedly assured the party’s delegation that the polling stations of 2013 will not be changed and that no polling staff, who are relatives, of any candidates will be allowed at the polling stations.
SSP Shaikh told them that the army will be deployed from November 15. He assured that the police will not allow brandishing of weapons even by official security guards. The protest ended but with warnings of another sit-in if the administration failed to honour the promises.
Meanwhile, in Tharparkar the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Arbab group led a sit-in outside the DRO’s office. PML-F, Jamaat-i-Islami, Qaumi Awami Tehreek and other allied parties also took part in the demonstration.
Arbab Anwar alleged that around 300 of 614 polling stations in the district have been changed to favour the PPP candidates. “The pre-poll rigging started from the nomination process and it is still continuing.”
Anwar claimed that the DRO and the district administration are even disregarding the recent Sindh High Court’s order regarding the changes in the polling stations. The protesting parties while demanding restoration of the old polling stations warned of another sit-in on November 16.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2015.