Although polling remained peaceful across the city, delays mismanagement and confusion over venues of polling stations left voters frustrated in many localities.
Voting began late in most of District Central’s PS-128 constituency, which comes under NA-255 and comprises various Nazimabad zones, because of the late provision of ballot boxes seals to polling staff at various polling stations.
Polling agents of various political parties were also reportedly stopped at several polling stations in Nazimabad No 1.
“We were kept waiting at the gates unnecessarily,” a polling agent of a political party told The News at the Karachi Cambridge Government Boys Secondary School Nazimabad No 1 where three polling stations were set up.
Some voters had to face problems finding their names on the electoral lists and had to go back and forth between the three stations to find their booths.
Turnout remained thin for the first couple of hours and slowly began to pick up after 10am. Although voter turnout didn’t seem impressive in most of the polling stations, youth and first-time voters were excited to be participating. A substantial number of women voters were also seen flocking to the polling stations to cast their votes to the candidates of their choices.
In the first hour of polling, journalists were able to report from outside and inside the polling stations without any restrictions, however, after 10am, security officials began denying entry to media personnel. A solider also confiscated a cell phone from this correspondent at a polling station at Nazimabad No1 for recording video of voters standing in queues, however, it was returned half an hour later.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan candidate for PS-128 Mohammad Abbas Jafferi also had been stopped by the police at a polling station in Nazimabad. Speaking to The News, he expressed concerns about the process.
“I am not satisfied with the transparency of the electoral procedure,” he said, adding that voters were facing problems due to the lengthy procedure of casting votes and some were not even being allowed to enter polling stations.
“In the morning our polling agents were not allowed to enter the polling stations. They were told that all would sit at the same place and were told that they should go home,” Abbas claimed.
Voting in most polling stations of the constituency started late and was further slow down due to a change in procedure for allowing polling agents of political parties to monitor the voting.
In several polling stations, polling agents were not allowed to enter the venue even after two hours had passed since voting started.
Speaking out against this problem, Iftikhar Akbar Randhawa, candidate of Pak Sarzameen Party for NA-252, said it was usual for chief polling agents to authorise polling agents. “But today the presiding officers and security personnel have refused and asked polling agents to get their candidate’s signatures on the passes to get access,” he said.
Jan Mohammad Gabol, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf candidate for PS-121, said presiding officers’ refusal to allow polling agents in and starting polling without them was a non-transparent procedure and it could make the elections controversial.
A sudden change of the venue of a polling station in NA-237/PS-88 caused hardships to voters in Malir Cantonment.
The polling station no. 51 was originally situated in Government Girls Primary School APS Colony in Malir Cantt as per the original polling scheme. However, on Wednesday morning, the polling station was suddenly relocated to FG Boys Middle School, some five kilometres away from the original station. This delayed the voting process by at least an hour and affected some 2,500 voters.
Volunteers of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf were seen helping voters of NA-237/PS-88 in figuring out where their polling stations were with the help of a smartphone app.
With the constituencies redrawn, the constituency’s voters faced difficulties in finding their polling stations and a sizeable number of voters in Defence Officers Housing Scheme Phase-II in Malir Cantt were made to vote at a polling station situated outside Malir Cantt near the Racecourse Ground around Safoora Chowrangi.
Voters from PS-100 complained about flaws in the polling scheme which caused them the inconvenience of having to travel a long distance to vote.
“There are four polling stations at the community centre of our society, but we have been assigned the polling stations that are miles away from our society,” said Haseebullah, a resident of Malik Society, Gulzar-e- Hijri.
There were 68 polling stations in PS-100, but residents of one locality were assigned polling stations in distant localities which affected turnover.
Moreover, due to the intermittent shutdown of ECP’s 8300 text service, voters unaware of their polling stations had to wait hours for a response.
“I have visited three polling stations and they could not find my name on their list, while no response is being received from the 8300 service,” said Rabia Iqbal, a resident of KDA Society, Scheme 33, who ultimately left without voting.
— Edited by Suzanna Masih