The long-awaited second phase of local government elections in Sindh is underway in 16 districts today (Sunday), including Karachi and Hyderabad.
Polling began at 8 am and will continue till 5 pm. Television reports showed turnout being low amid single-digit morning temperatures. Turnout improved as the day progressed.
Three hours into the vote, Jamaat-i-Islami’s Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman spoke to reporters in Karachi, where he expressed satisfaction over the “by and large peaceful” security situation.
“I want to appreciate security forces but we want the Rapid Response Force should show movement,” he said. “They should be active in the populace so that the people are confident that the security situation is fine.”
He said in some areas, some polling stations were “burned down via a conspiracy as they tried to stop the people from voting”.
“But I want to congratulate the people of Landhi and Labour Square that they still came out to vote and gave a befitting response to these terrorists.”
Only the public can combat them. If people come out, no one will have the power to disrupt the process.“
Separately, PPP’s Saeed Ghani cast his vote in UC-8, Chanesar Town, and spoke to the media.
“After the results of local body elections in Karachi, PPP will emerge as the largest political party in the city,” Ghani said. “I have been saying for more than a year that the city of Karachi belongs to Bhutto and Inshallah the results of today’s elections will prove it.”
He claimed that the mayor of Karachi will be a “jiyala of the PPP” and appealed to people to come out and cast their votes.
Meanwhile, in a tweet today, PTI Chief Imran Khan urged people in Karachi, Hyderabad, and Dadu to come out and vote for their representatives.
“Their vote today is essential if they want to change their lives,” he added.
Earlier, Sindh Assembly Opposition Leader Haleem Adil Sheikh visited the PTI’s camp set up in Karachi’s Sohrab Goth Town in District East, which comes under UC-2.
PTI Karachi’s official Twitter account claimed that a “huge public is present at PTI’s camp”.
The video showed dozens of people gathered at the camp while Sheikh — dressed in a red coat — overviewed the camp activities, purportedly remarking “Awesome”.
Voting briefly paused at Karachi’s Malir
Meanwhile, unrest was reported at the Bin Qasim polling station in Karachi’s Malir district.
According to Malir Senior Superintendent (SP) Irfan Bahadur, voters complained that the electoral symbol of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) was missing from ballot papers.
“Due to this, voting was stopped [at the polling station] for a while,” he told the press
Bahadur said that the voting resumed when new ballot papers were brought to the polling station.
PTI’s Naqvi complains about ballot box seals
Separately, PTI Sindh MPA Firdous Shamim Naqvi visited a polling station in Karachi and shared videos showing him removing what he claimed were loose seals from ballot boxes.
He could be seen complaining about the mismanagement and allegedly improper sealing of ballot boxes.
In his tweet, he lamented, “There be no staff present in the polling station since the morning. There are five ballot boxes kept in a single room. There is no female staff present from the election commission.”
He further claimed, “The presiding officer has no training; seals of all ballot boxes are open.” Criticizing the ECP, he said, “This work (ensuring proper election preparations) is not the candidate’s duty.”
The video shared showed Naqvi arguing with a staff member that he was sealing the boxes “incorrectly”, upon which the staff offered him to seal them correctly.
ECP issues notice to Sindh govt
Later in the day, the election commission issued a notice to the Sindh government for running advertisements on several television channels.
“Various development schemes are mentioned in the advertisements. The running of these advertisements on the day of local body elections (today) is a violation of the code of conduct,” it said in a statement,
The electoral body also instructed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to stop the ads from going on air today.
PPP writes to ECP about ‘high-handed tactics’ in Korangi, ballot boxes in Dhobi Ghat
Meanwhile, the PPP’s official Twitter account shared a letter written today by Senator Taj Haider to the chief election commissioner asking him to investigate “high-handed tactics” being used in two polling stations of Korangi Town.
The subject of the letter highlighted the unavailability of “polling boxes/material” at the New Age Grammar School polling station while the matter of the letter claimed “high-handed tactics” were being used at polling station 103, Sun Rise School, and 104, Government Mono technic.
The senator demanded an investigation of the above “irregularities” in order to ensure “clean and transparent elections”.
The PPP wrote another letter to the ECP saying polling boxes at the Government Secondary School in UC7 of Karachi’s Dhobi Ghat were unavailable.
“Your attention is requested towards the subject matter to ensure free and fair elections,” the party added.
Hyderabad sees low turnout
On the other hand, a low voter turnout was observed in Hyderabad.
Hyderabad Deputy Commissioner Fuad Soomro told the press that polling remained smooth and no complaints were received from any quarter.
However, a “disturbance” was reported at a women’s polling station in Wahdat Colony because of a scuffle allegedly between PPP and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) supporters, he said, adding that voting is currently underway there.
Separately, women in the Matiari district came out in a “fair number” to cast their votes.
MQM sits this one out
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) meanwhile, announced last night that it would boycott today’s local government elections in Karachi and Hyderabad after its repeated requests for changes in the delimitation of constituencies were turned down by the electoral watchdog.
‘Interference will be strictly dealt with
As polling began, the ECP issued a statement from Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja, in which he called on “patriotic people” of Karachi and Hyderabad to express their “faith in democracy” by participating in local bodies’ elections today.
He said the special secretary and secretary ECP are monitoring the elections from the Sindh Provincial Election Commission’s office, while a Central Control Room has been set up in the Election Commission Secretariat which will be active “day and night”.
In case of any complaint, the public should file them in the Monitoring and Complaint Cell at the Central and Provincial Election Commissioner Sindh office in Karachi, he added.
He also issued directives to the ECP, telling the body to ensure that any kind of “interference and mischief” in the election process is “strictly dealt with”.
He said: “The Election Commission, the electoral process, and all the institutions for establishing law and order will fulfill the trust of the people of Karachi and Hyderabad.”
Over eight million voters are expected to come out of their houses to elect their local government representatives from among 17,863 candidates contesting for chairman and vice-chairman of the union committee and general members, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
As many as 8,876 polling stations — 4,997 in Karachi and 3,879 in Hyderabad divisions — have been set up with CCTV cameras, and strict security arrangements have been made.
Around 8,153 of the polling stations have been declared ‘sensitive’ or ‘highly sensitive’.
A total of 830 candidates have been elected unopposed in 16 districts of two divisions, including seven in Karachi, and 823 in the Hyderabad division.
In Karachi, as many as 3,415 polling stations have been classified as sensitive, 1,496 as highly sensitive, and 79 as normal.
Out of 2,674 polling stations in Hyderabad division, 1,270 are sensitive, 779 are highly sensitive and 625 are normal.
In Thatta and Sujawal all 1,008 polling stations have been declared sensitive and 185 highly sensitive.
In Karachi, 2,166 candidates for the seat of Chairman and Vice Chairman and 6,892 candidates for Ward Member are taking part in the election battle.
Meanwhile, a total of 9,078 candidates would be contesting in the second phase of the local government elections in nine districts of the Hyderabad division —Hyderabad, Dadu, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allahyar, Matiari, Jamshoro, Thatta, Sujawal and Badin — while 3,451,320 citizens would be exercising their right to vote on Sunday (today), the ECP said.
Of 9,078 candidates, Hyderabad city topped the chart with 2,477 candidates, followed by 1,948 in Badin district, 1,425 in Dadu, 833 in Jamshoro, 763 in Tando Allahyar, 694 in Matiari and 436 in Tando Mohammad Khan.
Around 1,522 candidates are contesting for the seats of UC chairman and vice chairman, including 4,482 for general councilors, 1,034 for municipal committee members, 1,019 for town committee members, and 1,637 for district council members.
Over 63,000 policemen perform poll duty
Police and Rangers have prepared ‘foolproof’ security arrangements for the second phase of Sindh local government elections scheduled to be held in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions/ranges on Sunday as none of the polling stations was considered normal, officials told Dawn.
“Over 43,605 policemen would perform security duty for LG polls in Karachi division,” according to a police spokesperson.
In the Hyderabad division, police sources said that a total of 19,536 policemen would be deployed at the polling stations to maintain law and order.
Separately, a Pakistan Rangers spokesperson said that they have finalized security steps for ensuring peaceful local government polls not only in Karachi but Hyderabad as well.
Besides, in order to maintain law and order, both the Rangers and police have carried out search and combing operations in various areas and arrested several criminal persons, and recovered arms and ammunition from their custody.
The Rangers spokesperson said that a quick response force of 700 Rangers personnel will also be deployed in different areas of Karachi to handle any untoward incident