Tuesday, August 16, 2022

With fears and doubts, Sindh heads to polls in 14 districts

• 11 million voters to choose representatives today
• Security apparatus braced for any untoward incident
• Allegations of rigging levelled at ruling party

KARACHI: With serious reservations of opposition parties and fears of violence, which are further deepened after a bomb attack in Jacobabad killed one person and left around 10 injured, Sindh goes to local bodies’ elections in 14 districts of four divisions under first phase of the electoral process where more than 11 million voters will choose their representatives for the municipal system of their towns and villages after more than six years.

After remaining under doubts for many weeks due to efforts of major political parties to delay the process on different grounds, the local bodies (LB) polls in Sindh are finally taking place after the Sindh High Court on Friday dismissed the petitions of major opposition parties seeking postponement of local government elections in four of the six divisions of the province.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had approached the SHC against demarcation and delimitations of LG constituencies, incomplete electoral rolls, etc.

Despite their reservations and fears, the opposition parties are now set to contest the polls today on Sunday in which over 21,000 candidates are in the run for 6,277 seats of 101 town committees, 23 municipal committees, 14 districts councils, four municipal corporations, 11 town municipal corporations and 887 union councils and union committees.

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.

The data shared by the Election Commission of Pakistan says that there are 11,643,582 — 6,331,383 males and 5312,199 females — registered in four divisions who will be eligible to cast vote from 8am to 5pm.

“Total 9,290 polling stations have been set up here around where more than 1,8000 staff members will facilitate people to exercise their voting right,” said an official.

“Among them 1,985 polling stations have been declared highly sensitive and 3,448 sensitive. The ECP would be assisted by 26,545 policemen for security purposes backed up by the paramilitary Pakistan Rangers, Sindh personnel. The Pakistan Army troops would also be there as quick response force.”

The ECP has also established a Central Control Room in Islamabad for monitoring and registering complaints related to Sindh LB polls.

The polling related complaints, the ECP spokesman said, could be lodged round the clock on telephone nos 051-9204402; 051-9210838.

The complaints could also be faxed to the control room on 051-9204404. A similar provincial control room has also been established in Karachi. Polling related complaints could be lodged by contacting provincial room via telephone numbers 021- 99203369; 021- 99203373-77, he added.

“The delivery of all polling materials, ballot papers, polling bags and polling staff to the respective polling stations would be completed on Saturday under strict security. All presiding officers would arrive at their respective destinations on Saturday evening and set up polling stations and polling booths,” he said.

The key opposition parties, however, are continuing to doubt the fairness and transparency of the process and have accused the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party of pre-poll rigging fearing violence on the day of the polling and showing distrust in the police security.

The fears of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the alliance of five political parties Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and Sindh United Party (SUP) have further deepened after a man was killed and at least eight people were injured in a grenade attack in Jacobabad on Maula Dad Road.

The police authorities are not sure about the motive for the attack, but they didn’t rule out the possibility of its links with the Sunday’s polls.

“We have arrested a suspect and the process of investigation is on, but one can’t rule out the possibility of its link with the polls,” Sindh IG Ghulam Nabi Memon told Dawn. “We are confident as far as preparations at our end are concerned. But, in such security arrangements challenges are always there. We plan and prepare ourselves foreseeing differing aspects but new challenges emerge from nowhere. However, we are well prepared and confident and this time we have more focused on quick response force. For effective result we have connected them with the polling staff. So whenever the polling staff see any emerging situation, they can seek the help of the quick response force apart from regular deployment.”

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2022

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