lahore: The polls in Punjab were by and large peaceful; the media was barred from going inside the polling stations by the security forces despite possessing accreditation cards issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan.
Polling started at many polling stations much beyond the scheduled time of 8 a.m. Some experts attributed the delay to the incompetence of polling staff who probably were not adequately trained. Polling delayed from 10 to 30 minutes at many polling booths.
Some parties claimed that the polling process was very slow. It was rare to see a large number of voters turning out at polling stations much before the start of polling time.
At some places, polling process was painfully slow. For instance, only 13 votes were cast by women during the first four hours at a polling booth in CDGL School Gujjarpura while hundreds of women were in queues by 9a.m. The registered female voters at this booth were 610. Similarly, out of 749 registered male votes, only 64 votes were cast during the first four hours at the same station.
The slow polling process, however, did not dampen the spirit of the voters who kept coming and braved the hot humid weather particularly before 2 p.m.
There was one serious lapse in most polling stations as there was no arrangement of wheelchairs for the elderly and special persons. No one knew who was to arrange for wheelchairs and what action the ECP would take against those who disobeyed its orders. Even a woman who came on her own wheelchair could not cast her vote as the polling booth was established on the first floor of Government Degree College, Wapda Town.
There was no arrangement to facilitate the woman to reach her polling booth. Mobile phones were not allowed inside the polling stations. Army personnel snatched mobile phones from the people at many places.
A man was severely manhandled by the policemen in the Kahna area after a mobile phone was found in his possession.
A scuffle was witnessed between the PML-N and PTI workers at Bhabliana BHQ on Raiwind Road when some elderly women were found stamping their choice in the presence of the presiding officer. The polling process was suspended for some time.
Many voters at polling booth in NA 125 at Lahore College complained of poor ink and shortage of material. Many voters complained of slow polling process in NA 129, PP 158, Garhi Shahu.
Voting started almost 40 minutes late at polling booths 235 and 107 due to the late arrival of the polling agents.
NA 161 candidate Sadiq Khan Baloch was fined Rs 50,000 over misbehaving with army personnel and violating the ECP code of conduct.
Candidates arranged refreshment for the voters outside polling stations. Qeemay walay naan were also served at many polling stations at lunchtime. Intermittent rain disturbed polling process at many places in Lahore and other parts of the Punjab province.
Many polling stations were inundated following heavy rain. A large number of voters returned home after witnessing polling stations flooded with rainwater.
Voting process at at Islamia College located on Railway Road, in NA 124 was stopped on the arrival of Begum Shamim Akhtar, mother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. People were allowed to cast their votes after her departure.
Minor skirmishes were reported at Kahna, Manga Mandi, Shahdara and Sher Shah Colony.PML-N and PTI activists chanted slogans and hurled threats in PP 154.
In NA 125, the army personnel deployed at Government College for Women, Cooper Road, denied entry to the journalists to observe the election process. However, army personnel were very cooperative at some polling stations.
The DIG visited various sensitive polling stations and checked the security arrangements. He appreciated the officials who performed well and also gave away cash prizes to them.
Around 35,000 police officials, Dolphin Squad and PRU performed security duty in the city. PRU and Dolphin Squad continued patrolling till the end of the polling process. Officials of Anti-Riot Unit and additional strength of police officials remained on high alert to meet any untoward incident.
Yasmeen Rashid cast her vote in NA-135, PP 173 at American Lycetuff School at Johar Town. Abid Boxer cast his vote in NA 130, Iqbal Town. Amir ul Azeem cast his vote at Government Girls Degree College in NA 135. PTI workers injured Tariq Butt, chairman PML-N in Manga Mandi, NA 136 and PP 171.
Two presiding officers at Falcon School Polling Station told that they did not have voting ink and they had to use simple marker from the bazaar.
PML-N transportation arrangements were better than the PTI. PTI used a software to recognise their voters and facilitate their voting without time wastage, whereas, the PML-N polling camps used old conventional method of voter's lists.
The staff of returning officers (ROs) were minting money out of the honorarium being provided to presiding officers. A number of presiding officers said that the staff of ROs took receipt of Rs 36,000 while they gave Rs 35,500. Moreover, the amount of Rs 1,000 set for RTS and Rs 50 for balance was not provided.
In various areas of Lahore, due to lack of transport facility, the PTI youths faced problems to bring the voters from their houses, while the PML-N had edge over the PTI on this count.
Chief Minister Hassan Askari visited Punjab Safe Cities Authority’s headquarters and reviewed the polling process in the city through high-tech CCTV cams of the authority.
He said that 8,000 modern CCTV cameras had been installed in Lahore city, due to which, the security agencies were successfully monitoring the situation.
Several voters complained that the polling staff denied them entry to the polling stations after 5:30p.m. They alleged that the authorities forcibly stopped voters who had PML-N chits while allowing the PTI slip holders into the polling stations.
A middle aged women crying foul outside a polling station alleged that she had been standing for over an hour but was forcibly removed from the queue at the last moment by the polling staff while accommodating PTI voters.
The media was generally not allowed access inside the polling stations despite having accreditation cards issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan. They were told that an institution had asked them to do so.
In NA 135 and PP-173, the journalists carrying accreditation cards issued by the ECP were denied excess to the polling booths by the security personnel at Federal Public Commission Office at Mustafa Town.
Gypsies living without basic civic amenities refused to cast their votes in Vehari. They also displayed their resentment by showing their ID cards.