KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: Although the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) won most of the seats in the first phase of the local government polls in Sindh province’s 14 districts on Sunday, the allegation of rigging has created severe differences among the ranks of the coalition government in the Centre as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI) have threatened to quit the federal governing coalition if their concerns about rigging were not addressed.
The PPP has succeeded in winning almost all district councils of 14 districts in the first phase of local government polls, according to unconfirmed and unofficial election results. Also, the ruling party in the province has won over 70 percent of the Municipal and Town committees.
Rival political parties, which also made alliances in some districts, badly failed to give a tough time to the PPP in the local governments’ first phase polls. The PPP has won over 2,500 seats in various categories, getting the first position. Independent candidates, most of them are likely to join the PPP, ranked second by securing over 300 seats of all categories.
The JUI-F ranked third by bagging over 250 seats in all categories, Grand Democratic Alliance ranked fourth by securing over 150 and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) ranked fifth by securing over 60 seats in all categories, according to the unconfirmed and unofficial election results.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari congratulated his party candidates and supporters on “outstanding performance” in the first phase of local government elections in the province. He said that people chose a peaceful, prosperous, and progressive Sindh by rejecting the politics of hate and division. “People rejected politics based on religion or ethnicity. They chose Jinnah’s,” he wrote on Twitter.
On the other hand, the MQM-P and the JUI-F, two major components of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led ruling coalition in the Centre, have warned to quit the federal governing coalition if their concerns on rigging in the local government election were not addressed. Both parties have refused to accept the results and demanded the higher authorities to declare the first phase of local government elections in four divisions of the province null and void, accusing the ruling PPP of rigging.
Leaders of both parties also asked Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to take note of what the PPP has done with the coalition allies in the local government polls in Sindh.
MQM-P’s Deputy Convener and former Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar has demanded the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) immediately halt the election process in Sukkur, Mirpurkhas and Nawabshah divisions and said that ballot boxes had been stolen and results manipulated in the first phase of the local government polls. “The local government elections in Sindh seem to be less of an electoral process and more of a joke,” said Akhtar while addressing a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Bahadurbad on Monday. The MQM-P leader said that entire media was running the footage of ballot papers being forcibly taken away during the polling. He alleged that urban centres were deliberately mixed with rural areas to damage the political stake of MQM-P.
"Almost all the political parties are raising questions about the electoral process and not accepting the results,” he said. “The way the elections are being held puts a big question mark on the performance of the Sindh government officials, and ECP.”
Maulana Rashid Mehmood Soomro, JUI-F’s Provincial General Secretary, said the ECP had failed to fulfil its responsibility in holding the local bodies elections in Sindh. He alleged that the JUI-F workers were brutally tortured, and harassed while the police stood as a silent spectator. “The Sindh organisation of the party asked its central leadership to review the situation in the province and decide whether to stay or quit the coalition government. It is not possible that while JUI-F will remain part of the coalition government, its workers and candidates will be beaten up and local government polls are rigged,” he said.
“We thought IG Sindh Ghulam Nabi Memon a good officer, but what happened on Sunday during the local government polls has raised questions about his performance,” he said. Soomro also announced to organise protest sit-ins against the Sindh government, Sindh police and ECP in 14 districts today (Tuesday).
Meanwhile, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Karachi chief Hafiz Naeemur Rehman also said that whatever happened in the first phase of local government polls in Sindh was a complete failure of the government, ECP and the law enforcement agencies. “The same situation could be replicated in Karachi and other areas in July 24 as political parties were being refrained from the democratic process,” said Rehman, while addressing a press conference at Idara Noor-e-Haq, the JI Karachi headquarters, on Monday.
He said that candidates were denied voter lists while two parallel voter lists were circulating, adding that the situation warrants the attention of the ECP. He also said that the prevailing situation also suggests that the PPP government in Sindh was affecting the electoral process.
The JI leader further said that the ECP was under influence of the PPP government in Sindh. He added that a union council in other parts of Sindh consists of 10 to 15 thousand individuals.
However, Rehman said, in Karachi, a single union council is consisted of up to 65 thousand individuals to get desired results by the PPP regime in Sindh. Meanwhile, former president and leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, Asif Ali Zardari has expressed gratitude to people of Sindh for granting the PPP a historical victory in the first phase of local government elections in the province. In a statement on Monday, the former president said the PPP’s victory in the local government polls was in fact the victory of the people of Sindh.
He said the PPP’s candidates’ electoral victory showed people’s confidence in the performance of the PPP. He asked the activists of the party to get ready for the second phase of local government elections in Sindh to secure victory in it in the same manner. In his message on Twitter, the PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari greeted his party for its extraordinary success in the local government polls held in 14 districts of Sindh.
Meanwhile, the allies of the coalition government from Balochistan on floor of the National Assembly came up with strong reservations calling up the government to fulfil commitments made with them for change in Lower House of the Parliament.
An independent parliamentarian from Balochistan, Muhammad Aslam Bhotani complained about non-allocation of development funds for his constituency in Lasbela in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).
“All the allies have same reservations but most of them do not complain but I will continue to speak,” he said, adding that he would continue to protest on floor of the House if his grievances are not removed. He said they were allies of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) but love of somebody else attracted them to other side. “As Asif Ali Zardari approached him he said he does not need any ministry rather he required funds for his constituency,” he said.
Bhotani recalled that they received billions of rupees development funds from the PTI government but did not get any respect but situation was totally different." Our voters ask to go to the government contend with respect only," he said. He said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif talked to Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal thrice after Zardari sb had also called him but to no avail.
He said he approached the office from where they use to receive telephone calls and then his demand was met to some extent. He said Rs400 million scheme was approved but only Rs80 million have been allocated for fiscal year 2022-23.
He mentioned that Asif Ali Zardari completed number of 58 members for Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz. “I have no complains with him also but our voices should be heard,” he said. He said the government is staying with margin of just two votes and they have changed attitude towards allies. “What could be the situation had they enjoyed margin of 10 votes in the National Assembly,” he said.
Another Baloch member, Khalid Magsi expressed the reservations that commitments made with Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) were also not being met. He said from his party, he was included in the cabinet but without any portfolio. “We are demanding that at least a small ministry be given to us but they are not ready,” he said.
Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said the government believed in ending sense of deprivation in Balochistan and that was why the prime minister also visited constituency of Aslam Bhotani twice.
Sardar Ayaz Sadiq assured Khalid Magsi that commitments with the allies would be fulfilled. He said a full ministry was offered to Khalid Magsi and if any more documentation required, it would also be done.
Meanwhile, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) senior leader and Federal Minister for Water resources Syed Khurshid Shah on Monday challenged the political parties that cast shadows of doubt on victory of the PPP in Local Government election in Sindh.The PPP stalwart asked the MQM-P, JUI-F and PTI to mention the constituencies where the alleged rigging took place, adding that they were ready to hold re-election there. He said if the same results come out then the accusers will have to seek apology.
Khurshid Shah said the political parties should openly accept election results whether they win or lose. Unfortunately, he said the PTI has created an atmosphere that “if we win, it’s okay, otherwise elections are rigged”. He said the decision of the people of Sindh cannot be changed by not accepting the election results. “The PPP did believe in people’s verdict, not in rigging, as it’s the only party that has raise voice of the rule of people,” he said.
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