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Karachi by-election: Polling underway for NA-249

Karachi residents have started casting their votes to elect their representative from NA-249. The polling started at 8am and will continue till 5pm.

Here are live updates from the constituency:

At 3:30pm, PSP leader Hassan Sabir accused the presiding officer of polling station number 109 of getting over 20 Form-45 signed at 2pm, three hours before the polling ends. These forms are signed once the polling is complete.

Sabir said that they had evidence against the officer which was shown to the Rangers and other security forces at the station. After this, the officer confessed to the crime and cancelled the forms.

At 2:29pm, SAMAA TV obtained an alleged leaked audio clip of PSP candidate Mustafa Kamal. He was heard instructing all party members to spend the night in NA-249. “Bring your toothbrushes and toothpastes along with you,” he said.

In a letter issued at 1:14pm, the electoral body instructed PTI MPA Raja Azhar to leave NA-245 for creating hurdles for voters and trying to influence their votes. The orders were issued by Regional Election Officer Nadeem Haider.

Around 12:25pm, the Election Commission of Pakistan ordered law enforcement agencies to escort PTI leaders Firdous Shamim Naqvi and Bilal Ghaffar out of NA-249 till the polling ends.

According to a letter issued by Regional Election Commissioner Nadeem Haider, no MPA, MNA, minister, or other public office bearers from any party is allowed to visit the NA-249 constituency during polling.

On the other hand, PPP leader Qadir Khan Mandokhail accused the Pakistan Sarzameen Party of creating chaos outside polling stations. “They know they will lose,” he said, adding that PPP is confident of its win and celebrations will begin after 5pm.

MQM candidate Muhammad Mursaleen has blamed presiding officers of influencing votes. “I went to the polling station in UC30 where the presiding officer was telling people to vote for PPP,” he said. “I went there and expressed my concerns after which Rangers reached the site.”

At 10:45am, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf workers protested outside polling station no 132 in Baldia. PTI leader Amjad Afridi claimed that voters were stopped from entering the station.

A police team has reached the site to prevent any further chaos. According to reports, senior police officers are expected to visit the polling station later in the day.

At least 1,100 Rangers personnel and 2,800 policemen have been deployed to maintain the law and order situation during the polling.

About Karachi’s NA-249

According to the Election Commission, 339,000 voters have been registered in the constituency. Ninety-two polling stations have been declared sensitive, while 184 highly sensitive. Seventy-six polling stations have been set up for men, and 61 for women.

A tough contest is expected between 30 contenders. Five major parties have fielded their candidates for the National Assembly seat.

Miftah Ismail is contesting on PML-N’s ticket, while PPP has fielded Qadir Khan Mandokhail. Other candidates include PSP’s Mustafa Kamal, PTI’s Amjad Afridi, and MQM’s Muhammad Mursaleen.

The seat fell vacant after PTI’s Faisal Vawda resigned from the seat to become a senator on March 3. He had won the seat after defeating PML-N’s Shehbaz Sharif during the 2018 General Election.

Baldia Town, Rasheedabad, Ittehad Town, Saeedabad, Qaimkhani Colony, Gulshan-e-Bihar, Mominabad, Frontier Colony, and some parts of Orangi Town fall under the constituency.

Coronavirus SOPs

On April 19, the Sindh government requested the Election Commission of Pakistan to postpone the NA-249 by-election until the third wave of coronavirus infections subsides. In its letter to the ECP, the provincial government said that most of the cities in Pakistan were reporting a high positivity ratio and fatalities due to the virus.

PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz even called off her visit to Karachi because of the alarming situation. According to the party spokesperson, the visit was cancelled over the rising cases of coronavirus in the country. “There’s nothing more important to us (PML-N) than the lives of the public.”

The electoral body, however, rejected the request and remarked that by-polls will be held as per schedule with all SOPs.

Polling agents and staff have been advised to only allow two people into a station at a time to cast their votes. The voters must wear masks and ensure social distancing.

The authorities have even announced a holiday in the constituency.

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