All eyes are on Karachi this Thursday as it hosts the by-election in the NA-249 District West-II constituency.
The polling process was conducted largely peacefully with no untoward incident taking place, according to on-the-ground coverage from Geo News reporters.
Polling time ended at 5pm, immediately after which counting began at most polling stations owing to a low voter turn out which analysts say could be attributed to Ramadan as well as the hot weather.
According to Geo News correspondent Qaseem Saeed, one area saw a 10% voter turnout, whereas Talha Hashmi reported it to be 10-12% at some polling stations.
Kashif Mushtaq, however, reported it to be as low as 2% at others.
Counting is now underway in polling stations where no more voters are queued up waiting for their turn to cast their ballots.
According to unofficial results obtained from 46 out of 276 polling stations, PML-N’s Miftah Ismail is in the lead, with TLP’s Nazeer Ahmed and PPP’s Abdul Qadir Mandokhel close behind.
To ensure a large voter turnout, the Sindh government declared a public holiday today (Thursday, April 29) for NA-249 constituents.
The ECP deployed special staff for strict implementation of coronavirus guidelines during the polling process.
About the constituency
There are 30 candidates in the electoral arena, including PML-N’s Miftah Ismail, PTI’s Amjad Afridi, PPP’S Qadir Khan Mandokhel, Karachi’s former mayor Mustafa Kamal and MQM’s Hafiz Mursaleen, besides 18 independent candidates.
There are over 339,000 registered voters in NA-249, including 201,656 male and 137,935 female voters, who are casting their votes on 276 polling stations. The ECP has declared 184 polling stations highly sensitive and 92 others sensitive. The CCTV cameras have been installed at highly sensitive polling stations.
Some well-known areas in the constituency include Delhi Colony, Mujahid Colony, Baldia, and Saeedabad, while the prominent ethnic groups in this working-class neighbourhood comprise Urdu-speaking people, Pashtuns, Kashmiris, and the Seraiki-speaking lot.
ECP rejects Miftah Ismail’s request to extend polling hours
Meanwhile, the provincial election commission has turned down PML-N leader Miftah Ismail’s request to extend polling hours, said sources.
Sources within the election commission told Geo News that the body was unable to find any solid reason to extend polling hours beyond 5pm.
In a letter addressed to the provincial election commission, Ismail had submitted the request to facilitate voters who are fasting in the hot weather by extending polling hours.
He said the overall working efficiency of all presiding officers and their teams has been “very slow” which was affecting the polling process.
“Concurrently, majority of voters also arrived in polling stations late afternoon due to their fasting and hot weather conditions,” he wrote.
Ismail said he feared due to these factors, most voters will not be able to exercise their Constitutional right to vote for the candidate of their choice as the polling time was nearing its end.
“A large number of voters are still present at various polling stations in anticipation of casting their votes,” he said.
He requested the commission to provide an opportunity to a large number of people still present in the polling stations across the constituency to cast their votes, by extending the polling time “minimum for two hours at least”.
‘Exercise your constitutional right to vote’
PML-N President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif released a message to residents of NA-249 amid the by-poll in the Karachi constituency today.
The PML-N president appealed to the people of NA-249 to leave their homes and exercise their constitutional and democratic right to vote responsibly.
Shahbaz said the public can elect a competent and honest leader with their power to vote.
He also asked the citizens to take care of themselves and others around them in view of the spread of coronavirus.