—PTI loses in NA-131, NA-56 and NA-35 as voter turnout falls
LAHORE: The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has failed to retain three National Assembly constituencies that it won in the July 25 polls, reflecting a possible resentment against the policies implemented by the party during its almost two months in power.
According to unofficial results, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was in the lead as it had secured four out of the 11 NA seats. PTI was trailing behind with three seats, while Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) managed to win two seats. Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) also won one NA seat.
The polling for by-elections on 35 national and provincial assembly seats concluded peacefully yesterday (Sunday) after the voting time ended at 5pm.
Moreover, PML-N was in the lead with five, PTI four and independent candidates were ahead on two Punjab Assembly seats.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, PTI was in the lead with six while ANP was ahead on three seats. PPP was in the lead in both constituencies in Sindh while BNP and an independent candidate were in the lead on one seat each in Balochistan.
The results are particularly worrying for the ruling PTI for its failure to retain seats that it won in the July 25 polls, reflecting the public sentiment over the policies implemented by the PTI government such as anti-encroachment drive, rupee devaluation and increase in gas and electricity tariff among others, forcing some of the voters to switch camps.
Keeping up with the trend, the voter turnout was understandably lower than the general election. The PTI, however, which is the ruling party in the Centre, Punjab and KP, experienced a much larger decline in voter turnout than its rival parties, leading to its fall in key constituencies.
In NA-131 Lahore, for example, PTI Chairman Imran Khan had won against PML-N’s Saad Rafique in the July 25 General Elections. However, according to unofficial results, PTI’s Humayun Akhtar Khan (50,155) lost to Saad Rafique (60,352) by a margin of 10,000 votes, amid claims of foul play by Rafique.
Similarly, NA-56 Attock, where the PTI’s Tahir Sadiq had won by a comfortable margin of 16 per cent of total votes cast in that constituency on July 25, PML-N’s contender in both contests, Malik Sohail, managed to secure more than 115,273 votes against Khurram Ali Khan (80,092).
Considering that the voter turnout is considerably lower in the general elections, Sohail has pulled a remarkable feat and has been successful in mobilising his voters as compared to the PTI.
Moreover, in NA-35 Bannu, which was also won by Imran Khan previously, now seems primed to go to MMA’s Zahid Akram Durrani. Zahid has secured 58,068 votes in the by-polls.
Zahid Akram Durrani’s father, Akram Khan Durrani, had been the runner-up in the July contest, getting over 106,000 votes.
By-poll for NA-60 Rawalpindi-IV turned into a battleground between workers of PTI and PML-N as charged activists of both the parties clashed against each other. The PTI had fielded Shaikh Rashid Shafique, the nephew of Railways Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed, to contest from the constituency.
However, the PTI candidate visibly failed to mobilise the party voters in large numbers. On the contrary, Sajjad Khan, the PML-N candidate, was not only able to mobilise the party workers but he also used private transport to take the voters to the polling stations.
The polling turnout also remained lackluster as the ideological voters of the PTI did not like the nomination of Rashid Shafique, who had also lost in two previous elections.
While talking to media, Rashid Shafique claimed that change was coming and PTI’s anti-encroachment policy coupled with initiatives for better facilities of health and education will solve the issued of public and PTI will also provide low-cost and affordable houses for people of Rawalpindi.
PML-N’s candidate Sajjad Khan said that PTI had failed within its first 50 days and inflation had made lives of the people difficult. He added that this time, the public will not support PTI and PML-N will be victorious again.
Despite the below-par performance by PTI in by-elections, Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry has said that the PTI has once again emerged as ‘national party’ in the by-elections. The minister claimed that out of the eleven seats of National Assembly, PTI has managed to secure six, a claim that had proven to be wrong by the time of filing of this report.
“These results are positives. Pakistan has expressed confidence in the leadership of Imran Khan,” he added.
From Lahore’s NA-124 constituency, PML-N’s Shahid Khaqan Abbasi won the seat comfortably. He also expressed his reservations with the ECP. According to preliminary results, Abbasi has won with 75,012 votes, defeating PTI’s Ghulam Mohiuddin who obtained 30,115 votes.
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, in an address to his supporters, said, “I ask the chief election commissioner this: Who is in charge at a polling station? I visited around 40 polling stations today where presiding officers were not in charge. Do you understand what I am saying? Answer me this,” Abbasi said addressing supporters.
“Presiding officers had no authority whatsoever. This is what we call rigging. This is what we call the negation of public opinion. This is what we call disrespecting the people’s mandate. These are the things that lead to a country’s ruin,” he declared.
The voting process began at 8am on Sunday, with over 300 candidates, including some famous politicians, in the run. Over 9.9 million ballot papers had been printed for the by-polls as the polling continued until 5pm without a break.
The seats included 11 from National Assembly, nine from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly, 11 from Punjab and two each from Balochistan and Sindh assemblies.
The ECP had reminded the media that no unofficial and unverified results were to be aired before 6pm in accordance with the Lahore High Court (LHC) orders.
POLLING STATIONS AND SECURITY:
According to data provided by Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), over 5 million registered voters, including 2.3 million women and over 2.7 million men, were registered to cast their votes in 7,489 polling stations across the country, of which 1,727 polling stations had been declared sensitive.
According to details shared by the ECP, 848 out of total 5,193 polling stations in Punjab, 544 of total 1,555 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 201 of total 544 in Sindh and 134 of total 197 in Balochistan had been classified as ‘highly sensitive’.
An official of the ECP said that security cameras had been installed at all the sensitive polling stations which would be guarded by army troops. He said deployment of troops had started on Friday and that the troops would remain deployed there till October 15, a day after the polling.
The designated in-charges of army personnel deployed in and outside the polling stations were given the powers of a magistrate first class for the entire period of their deployment and were empowered to summarily try those found involved in impersonation, capturing of polling stations or violation of other relevant provisions of the law.
District returning officers and returning officers for the by-elections had also been given powers of magistrate first class.
Earlier reports said that 40,000 army personnel will be performing duties at polling stations, while around 100,000 police personnel will be performing their duties on polling day.
Ballot papers and other polls related material were dispatched under the supervision of army personnel. Directives had also been issued to the power ministry to not go for load shedding during poll timings.
CODE OF CONDUCT:
ECP had also issued a code of conduct for the security staff to follow. The security staff was answerable to the presiding officer and the returning officers (RO) and was not allowed to interfere during the counting process.
Moreover, the ECP made the Results Transmission System (RTS) and Result Management System (RMS) operational for the by-polls.
The ECP also launched its complaint cell for the by-polls. Voters were allowed to register their complaints about any irregularities in the polling process.
In a first, 7,463 overseas Pakistanis were registered to cast their votes in the by-polls, according to ECP data. However, the number represented a small percentage of the 631,909 number of people who were eligible to cast their votes.
The i-Voting pilot project was launched by the ECP last month to enable overseas Pakistanis to cast votes.
BY-POLLS BY PROVINCE:
In Punjab, by-polls were held for NA-124, NA-131, PP-164 and PP-165 seats.
PTI’s Ghulam Mohiuddin and PML-N’s Shahid Khaqan Abbasi contested for NA-124 whereas PML-N leader Saad Rafique was competing with PTI’s Humayun Akhtar for NA-125.
A First Information Report (FIR) had been registered against Mohiuddin for violating the electoral code of conduct by displaying weapons at an election meeting in the city earlier this week.
PML-N’s Sohail Shaukat Butt and PTI’s Muhammad Yousuf were in the race for PP-164. On the other hand, PTI’s Mansha Sindhu and PML-N’s Saiful Malook were contesting for PP-165.
At least 1,175,832 people were expected to cast their votes for the by-polls, all of which are being held in Lahore, for which 1,214,000 ballot papers had been printed.
In Sindh, by-polls were being conducted for NA-243 and PS-87 seats.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) Aamir Waliuddin Chishti, Pak Sarzameen Party’s (PSP) Syed Asif Hasnain, Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Hakim Ali and TLP’s Syed Nawazul Huda were in the race for NA-243 whereas PTI’s Alamgir Khan, founder of Fix-it campaign, was contesting for PS-87.
Addressing the media after casting his vote, PTI candidate Alamgir said, “The people have always supported me for Fix-it and they have been there when I went out on the roads for the social cause and also when I went to jail.” He also urged the voters to go out and vote by saying: “Today is a chance to overturn the history of Karachi.”
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had announced to support the PPP’s candidates and withdrew its candidate Sharafat Ali from contesting the by-poll.
According to ECP data, a total of 2,029,963 voters were registered to cast their votes, which include 878,474 female voters, for 57 candidates contesting in the elections.
The ECP formed 1,555 polling stations which had 5,007 polling booths. The ECP declared 544 polling stations as sensitive.
A help desk to deal with issues and problems faced by women and differently-abled voters had also been established in the office of provincial election commissioner. Polling began at 117 polling stations of PK-78 of Peshawar.
PTI’s Muhammad Irfan and Awami National Party’s (ANP) Sama Haroon Bilour were contesting for PK-78.
ANP leader Haroon Bilour was martyred in a terrorist attack on July 25 after which polling in the constituency was cancelled. Sama Haroon Bilour, who is Haroon Bilour’s widow, is contesting in his stead.
Bilour’s widow, Samar Haroon Bilour was being supported by the political parties in the joint opposition alliance.
For PK-44, PTI’s Aqibullah Khan and ANP’s Ghulam Hussain were in the race for the seat. Aqibullah Khan is National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser’s brother.
About 2,000 security personnel had been deployed to provide security in the constituency. While 35 polling stations had been declared as extremely sensitive and 82 have been declared as sensitive. A total of 63 polling stations were specified for male voters and 53 polling stations were specified for female voters. One polling station was for both males and females jointly.
In comparison to the July 25 general elections, the voter turnout was weak.
By-polls were being held in Balochistan’s PB-35 (Mustung) PB-40 (Khuzdar III) constituencies.
Fierce competition was expected in PB-35 between independent candidate Nawab Aslam Raisani, Balochistan Awami Party’s (BAP) Sardar Noor Ahmed Bangalzai and National Party’s (NP) Sardar Kamal Khan Bangalzai.
On the other hand, Jhalawan Awami Party’s (JAP) Mir Shafiqur Rehman and Balochistan National Party-Mengal’s (BNP-M) Akbar Mengal were in the race for PB-40.
Approximately 183,401 number of voters were registered to cast their votes for the two constituencies.
All polling stations in PB-40 had been declared sensitive. Highly sensitive polling stations were being monitored through CCTV surveillance, while army and police officials had been stationed inside and outside the polling stations.