The irregularities and rigging during polling in Karachi on Saturday forced some political parties to pull out of the election race in protest and a major party of the city to boycott polls in one national and two provincial constituencies.
The Jamaat-e-Islami, the Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, the Sunni Tehreek, the Sunni Ittehad Council and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan boycotted polls in Karachi most of them accusing the Muttahida Qaumi Movement of rigging the voting process. The MQM, however, had rigging allegations of its own and it boycotted polls in NA-248, PS-108 and PS-109 - all three Lyari constituencies. The party demanded that elections should be held again in these constituencies. It also demanded re-polling in NA-250, PS-112 and PS-113 - constituencies that fall in Defence, Clifton, and parts of Saddar.
Day of mourning
The JI also announced that it would observe a day of mourning on Monday (tomorrow) to protest against vote rigging.
“The MQM has continued with its past practice of hijacking elections at gunpoint,” JI Karachi chief Mohammad Hussain Mehanti told reporters at the Idara Noor-e-Haq.
“City government officers were posted at polling stations. They ruined the entire electoral process,” he added.
He said it was the responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan as well as army to provide justice to the aggrieved parties as the polling stations were changed overnight.
“The election commission seems totally helpless before the MQM and that is why we have decided to boycott the elections.”
Mehanti also gave details about the rigging that took place during the polls, particularly in the constituencies of NA-250 and NA-257.
Afaq rejects poll results
Rejecting the election results, the Afaq Ahmed-led MQM-P boycotted the elections complaining about massive rigging by the MQM.
The MQM-P chief, along with other party leaders, made the announcement at a press conference at his Defence residence. Ahmed accused MQM activists of threatening and harassing voters to come out to cast vote in favour of their candidates.
Ahmed demanded that the chief election commissioner should declare the election results in Karachi null and void as not only his party but all major political parties had pointed out discrepancies and rigging on a massive scale.
The MQM-P candidates contesting from 26 national and provincial constituencies were not allowed to contact their electorate. The party also extended full support to the mourning day call given by the Jamaat-e-Islami for Monday.
He claimed that on his request, Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G Ebrahim had directed the authorities to deploy army in two constituencies – NA-251 and NA-252. “But the Muttahida people threatened that if army was deployed they would boycott the elections,” he said. “Ebrahim had no other choice than to keep mum.”
“Had troops been deployed at sensitive stations,” he pointed fingers at MQM, “the party could not have won in the city without rigging. I will quit politics if Altaf wins any seat from Karachi without bogus votes.”
The MQM-P, he said, was not boycotting polls just because of rigging but because all the 26 candidates were barred from entering their constituencies. “We were not given a level-playing field.”
In his hard-hitting speech, Ahmed termed the elections a “farce” and rejected the polling results, demanding the chief election commissioner take notice of the situation. He also called for the immediate suspension of the Sindh IGP and Karachi DIG for defying the orders of election authorities, who had requested them to let the MQM-P chief enter his home constituency.
Ahmed also alleged that his security of two DSPs and four SHOs, deputed on the orders of Sindh High court, was withdrawn suddenly, creating panic among the party workers.
ST wants re-elections
The Sunni Tehreek boycotted the elections over the same reasons cited by the other two parties. The party’s chief, Sarwat Ejaz Qadri, said the election commission had failed to hold free and fair elections in Karachi.
He demanded that elections should be held again in Karachi under the supervision of the army. “The election commission has accepted that it failed to hold free and fair elections in Karachi and that is why their results should be declared null and void.”
MQM candidates Nabil Gabol (NA-248), Muhammad Saleem (PS-108) and Azhar Ahsan (PS-109) announced that they will boycott the election of their respective seats due to the alleged rigging by Lyari gangsters in over 65 polling stations of their constituencies.
They called for re-polling in their constituencies.
The announcement was made by Gabol, Saleem and Ahsan at a press conference at the Khursheed Begum Secretariat. MQM Rabita Committee member Wasay Jalil was also present on the occasion.
Gabol said that a conspiracy was hatched to push the MQM against the wall. The party was not allowed to hold public meetings and its offices were attacked by bombs. The Election Commission of Pakistan was approached on numerous occasions, but no action was taken, giving credence to the perception that the body was also part of the conspiracy, the MQM leaders said. Gabol said that a freehand had been given to the terrorists of Lyari and the police as well as the Rangers were nowhere to be seen. He said that transparent elections would not be possible in Lyari without the deployment of these law enforcement personnel.
Gabol claimed that MQM’s polling agents had been kidnapped in Lyari and staff was evicted from the stations for casting bogus votes. He said that the polling staff was held hostage in UCs 6, 7, 8,9,10 and 11 and bogus votes were cast in large numbers.
He said it was surprising that media representatives did not visit Lyari to take stock of the situation. He added that even international observers from the European Union did not visit Lyari to inquire about the reports of bogus voting in the area.
The MQM leader vowed to file a petition in the election tribunal and call for a reelection in NA-248. He said that he would use every legal forum to get justice.
NA-250, PS-112, PS-113
The MQM also demanded re-polling in a National Assembly constituency, NA-250, and two provincial assembly constituencies, PS-112 and PS-113.
The deputy convener of the party’s Rabita Committee and its candidate for NA–249, Dr Farooq Sattar, told reporters at the Khursheed Begum Secretariat that the election commission could protect the democratic rights of the constituents only by conducting re-polling in NA-250.
Citing reasons for the his party’s demand, he said polling at a number of polling stations of the constituency had not begun by 3pm, and ballot boxes, polling staff and election material were not available there. He added that there was no modus operandi for providing additional ballot boxes and, as such, there was no logic behind increasing the timings of the polling.
He said that not only the MQM but also other parties had their reservations, and hence with a view to ensuring transparency and fairness in the polls Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G Ibrahim should order re-polling in NA-250 and its two provincial assembly constituencies.
Sattar also spoke about the polling in NA–248 and NA–249. “The worst kind of rigging was witnessed at the polling stations of NA–248 and NA–249. Voting was deliberately slowed down in some areas and Lyari gangsters took over polling stations.”
He maintained that the gangsters forcibly took away ballot boxes and papers and deposited them at the polling stations after stamping them. “No one stopped the miscreants from hijacking the election process in NA-248 and NA–249.”
Sattar added that a similar situation was witnessed in other constituencies of the national assembly, including NA-240, NA-250, NA–251, NA–253 and NA–255, “where a large number of bogus votes were being cast”.
He said that of the 186 polling stations in NA-249, polling started after 12:30pm in 119 of them. “MQM’s polling agents were tortured and evicted from the polling stations.”
Raza Haroon, another party leader, condemned the firing on MQM activists in Nawabshah, resulting in the death of one of them. Former MNA Haider Abbas Rizvi said the people had come out on polling day on the appeal of party chief Altaf Hussain and allegations of rigging were directly affecting the MQM.