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February 24, 2021

Election wars

Editorial

 
February 24, 2021

Elections should always involve a peaceful means to settle the winner on a contested seat between political parties. Yet in the recent bypolls in Karachi and in Daska in Punjab, we have seen just the opposite happen. This is especially alarming as local bodies polls are around the corner and the antagonism between three major parties the PTI, the PML-N and the PPP does not look promising.

In NA-75 Daska, the main seat under question, the PML-N has said its win was sabotaged and that polling officers from 20 polling stations were taken away and the vote altered in the middle of the night. The PTI, meanwhile, claims a victory by some 7800 ballots and denies any wrongdoing in the count or in the abduction of officials. In some accounts, the party has said the officials were merely delayed in returning to their stations because of fog and bad lighting in the night. The ECP has said it will look into the allegations and declare the result of the election. Significantly, Mian Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz have demanded a reelection across the Daska constituency. Imran Khan, on Monday, said that it may be possible to persuade the party's candidate to hold a repoll on the 20 polling stations in question. This would be a somewhat strange manner in which to settle a poll. It is not usually the candidates who decide how a solution should be found to an election dispute or on how many polling stations a repoll should be held.

The situation in Daska threatens more hostility in the days to come. This would be alarming. We already have an extremely divisive situation between political parties in the country. Indeed, even in Karachi there has been division and acrimony. The PTI which lost their provincial seat for Malir, traditionally a PPP stronghold, has said its opposition leader in the Sindh Assembly, Haleem Adil Sheikh, has been tortured while in jail. Haleem Sheikh was held for violence and firing outside the police station on the day of the bypoll.

All this indicates an unfortunate trend as far as bypolls are concerned and also for elections to come in the future. It is essential that parties perhaps sit together to talk about the situation and ensure that the local bodies polls will be held in a disciplined fashion without the violence we have seen at present and without the major rifts that have broken out as the bypoll process has come to an end, without any definitive result in Daska, and a divide deepening between voters on either side.