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Karachi

April 8, 2016

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One-sided contest ends with walkover for MQM

Amid an unprecedented low voter turnout, Muttahida maintains grip on old turf; PTI admits ‘collective failure’ after Amjadullah’s last-minute desertion, plans to move court; three injured during unrest in PS-115 as MQM and Haqiqi supporters clash

Karachi

Following the dramatic switching of loyalties by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate Amjadullah Khan to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in the wee hours of Wednesday, the voter turnout in the by-election in NA-245 constituency turned out to be even lower than expected on Thursday.

“Only 45 men and 19 women have voted up till now,” said the presiding officer of a polling booth set up at the Government Saifee Eide Zahabi College of Technology, North Nazimabad, while looking at his watch. It was 4pm, just an hour before voting came to a close. “In by-elections, the turnout is usually lower, but today’s polling has set a new low,” he said.

According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, the total number of registered voters in the constituency is 409,655, with 221,242 men and 188,413 women.

In the provincial assembly constituency, PS-115, there were 162,614 (90,413 men and 72,201 men) registered voters.

A total of 227 polling stations were set up in NA-245, which they included 83 polling stations for PS-115.

Rangers personnel were seen deployed in and around polling stations with police to ensure discipline and law and order.

Unrest in PS-115

Though law and order affairs were strictly maintained in and outside the polling stations of NA-245, there were reports of clashes between the workers of MQM and Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM-Haqiqi) at a number of polling stations.

In Lines Area, workers of both parties had fist fights near polling stations after a sloganeering match against each others’ leaders, resulting in injuries to three persons. The law enforcement personnel arrived and arrested five persons allegedly involved in the brawl.

 

Polls on a working day

Leaders and supporters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pasban, vehemently lambasted on the ECP for holding the election on a working day, the reason, according to them, for the low turnout of voters.

“Though we are doing our best to bring as many people to polling booths, it is a working day and any of our supporters are not able to exercise their democratic right,” said an MQM worker who did not wish to be named. “The state spends extravagantly on arranging elections, but it appears that the whole exercise has gone to waste by holding it on a working day.”

However, for the MQM spokesperson, Amin-ul-Haq, the reason behind the low turnout was the one-sided contest. “I think the result of this by-election should be viewed through how few people voted, but the margin of votes leading to the victory of Muttahida candidate.”

But the MQM worker based his argument on grounds that district Central remains the political bastion for Muttahida and the low turnout could be reflective of the troubles being faced by the party.

 

Rigging allegations 

Asad Ali Shah, PPP’s president in PS-104, and few other local leaders alleged that MQM was yet again “using its old methods of rigging to fill ballot boxes”.

“We know that MQM would bag the seat by adding bogus votes to increase the turnout to save its face,” said Shah. “Though it was an MQM-versus-MQM contest, the party failed to bring out its voters considerable numbers. This is a clear message that both, the MQM and ECP, have lost their credibility and the constituents have no faith in the electoral system.

However, for Zaheer Abbas, a resident of the constituency and a self-proclaimed “Bhuttoist”, the allegations were nothing more than desperate rants. “How could you even think of winning a seat from an area, where constituents can’t relate to them?”

 

PTI's ‘collective failure’

Speaking to The News, PTI’s Karachi Organiser Ali Zaidi said the mysterious withdrawal of its candidate just one night before the election indicated foul play by the MQM. Hence, he declared, his party will not accept the election result and will challenge it in all courts to have it declared null and void.

“With Najmi Alam`s disclosure that he [Amjadullah Khan] offered him to withdraw in favour of the PPP candidate in exchange for money, it is quite evident that this election was an illegitimate exercise,” Zaidi said.

He said he had apologised to the constituents of NA-245 for not being able provide them with a viable alternative to the MQM in the by-election while terming the late-night political developments a “collective failure” for his party.

Meanwhile, PPP’s president for Karachi division, Najmi Alam, said the low turnout was a matter of grave concern. “I don’t think the turnout was more than 12 to 15 percent,” he said.

When asked if his party would be a co-petitioner with the PTI against viability of the by-election, Alam said, “If the court orders me to appear, I will. But we won’t be any party to their [PTI’s] petition”.

Meanwhile, debunking the possibility of any secret conspiracy by the MQM to woo the PTI candidate, MQM spokesperson Amin-ul-Haq said Amjadullah Khan had joined the party on legitimate and ethical grounds. "The MQM now stands behind him." 

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