Counting of votes underway in violence-marred Sindh local govt elections
The vote count in the first phase of local bodies’ elections in Sindh began after polling, marred by violence — aerial firing at polling stations, scuffles and deaths — came to an end at 5pm on Sunday.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said voters at polling stations, where the voting process was suspended, will be given time equivalent to the period of disruption in the polling process. The polls were held in the province’s 14 districts.
Two people, including the brother of a PTI candidate, died in poll-related violence while at least a dozen others were injured.
The 14 districts of four divisions — Sukkur, Larkana, Shaheed Benazirabad and Mirpurkhas — include Ghotki, Sukkur, Khairpur, Larkana, Qambar-Shahdadkot, Kashmore-Kandhkot, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Naushahro Feroze, Shaheed Benazirabad, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Umarkot and Tharparkar.
Voting will take place in Hyderabad division — part of lower Sindh — along with provincial metropolis Karachi in the second phase on July 24. Hyderabad division has nine districts.
Given the grass-roots nature of the elections, such scuffles are usually anticipated. The 2015 local government polls were not free of violence, which were especially evident in districts Khairpur and Sanghar.
While polling began in the morning in all 14 districts, reports of violence, scuffles and ECP’s mismanagement started pouring in from upper and lower Sindh regions. These clashes were the said to emerge out of missing election symbols as well. Polling remained suspended at various polling stations as of 4pm.
By Sunday afternoon two deaths were reported — one each in Sanghar and Sukkur — which were confirmed by police. The deceased in Sanghar’s municipal constituency was the brother of a candidate.
“I can confirm death of Qaiser, brother of our party’s candidate Asghar Gandapur in Tando Adam. Qaiser has been subjected to violence which caused his death,” claimed Mushtaq Junejo, divisional president PTI from Tando Adam.
Qaiser’s brother Zafar was contesting on ward-13 of municipal committee Tando Adam.
The killing sparked a protest as supporters blocked the Tando Adam road.
DG Health Dr Juman Bahoto confirmed to Dawn.com that the body was received in Tando Adam Taluka Hospital. “The cause of death can be ascertained only after a post-mortem is conducted,” Dr Bahoto said.
Another clash was reported outside a polling station in UC-63 Asgharabad of village Hashim Khaskheli in Shahdadpur taluka. A scuffle took place between supporters of the GDA and ruling PPP. A contingent of police and Rangers rushed to the spot to quell the violence.
In Nawabshah, a mob ransacked polling station no 26 set up in the Social Security dispensary. Unidentified men took way electoral material with them after scaling the walls of the polling station, local journalists said.
Polling had to be stopped and a case was lodged for alleged theft of electoral material, including ballot papers. Nine policemen were suspended by district police chief Amir Saud Magsi.
Another clash occurred in the same district at polling station Nadir Shah, where activists of TLP reportedly tried to get polling stopped. They claimed that the name of their candidate was missing on ballot papers in the UC-6 constituency.
Electoral proceedings were postponed in UC-6 HM Khawaja and UC Soomar Khan because electoral symbols were allegedly changed on ballot papers in the latter constituency, showing PPP’s symbol against GDA. PPP’s candidate was Qurban Ali and GDA’s was Arif Dahiri whereas the symbol of TLP’s candidate Abdul Sattar was not printed.
In upper Sindh, the death of a man was reported in Sukkur’s Rohri taluka after a scuffle at polling station Allah Jurio Jagirani of UC-25 of district council. Sukkur SSP Sanghaar Malik confirmed the death as well as injuries to four others. The deceased was identified as Abdul Qadeer Jagirani.
Another scuffle was reported between supporters of the JUI-F and PPP at polling station Fareed Mahar in Panu Aqil taluka. Polling was stopped after an altercation in Khairpur’s Faiz Ganj taluka.
Kashmore was among the most-affected districts in terms of violence. An armed clash was reported in the katcha —riverine area known as Durrani Mahar — of the Kashmore-Kandhkot district in upper Sindh.
Heavy aerial firing was reported there. Police, Rangers and district administration officials rushed to the area. Sabzois, Jagiranis, Bhayyo and other clans inhabit the area.
Reports were received that around 10 polling staff members were kidnapped in Durrani Mahar by armed men. But the police officer of the area denied it outright. “Polling staff had fled from the area after panic caused by aerial firing,” SSP Kandhkot Amjad Ali Shaikh told Dawn.com by telephone. “Now they have returned and polling has resumed,” he said.
Polling had to be stopped in UC Dunyapur of Kashmore district.
In Jacobabad district, polling was suspended at polling station-I of UC Sharanpur in Taju Dero as the candidate’s symbol was missing on a ballot paper. Polling was also stopped in Guddu town committee after a clash.
Similarly, another clash was reported in the Kaloi area of Tharparkar. Kaloi is a stronghold of former Sindh chief minister Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim. The altercation occurred at the polling station of UC Haji Booth, where Arbab’s son Arbab Inayat was present, along with his supporters. The former CM claimed that the presiding officer of the polling station was “suddenly” changed the night before.
Separately, PTI’s Ali Zaidi claimed that Rahim’s son was “attacked just now by #ZardariMafia goons”. “Law enforcement and ECP nowhere in sight, except Sindh Police who are actually protecting the attackers!” he added.
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