Islamabad: Enthusiastic Islamabad residents took part in the first ever Local Body polls of the capital in a peaceful atmosphere yesterday as large droves of people thronged the polling stations to choose their representatives. Tough contest was witnessed between the governing political party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf till the filing of this report early last night. One of the hallmarks of the voting was the absence of any violent incident in a stark contrast to the polls in Punjab and Sindh, officials said. Police and other law-enforcing agencies carried out patrols of the city during the voting hours, especially in the rural areas where the potential of violent clashes remained high.

The candidates of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the opposition Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf faced off one another in an, otherwise, politically charged atmosphere. The polling stations presented a deserted look in the early hours of the day with the polling staff kept waiting for the voters. However, the late-hour rush put the staff on their toes as clock ticked towards end of the polling time 5:30 p.m. Javed Masih, a Pakistan Air Force employee, standing in a long queue outside a polling station in sector F-6 just an hour before the end of the polling time, held the government responsible for late-hour rush. “Had the government declared a local holiday, there would have been a smooth process. Now, we are standing here for the last half an hour,” he said.

Another voter, who is employed by a sensitive organization and wished not to be named, told The Nation that the voters’ queue started lengthening after 2 p.m. “There was no harm in declaring a holiday in Islamabad (today)”, he said. The Election Commission of Pakistan received at least 30 complaints of minor nature in connection with the elections. Islamabad, which now has a population of around two million people, divided into 50 union councils for the polls. The voting that kicked off at 7.00 a.m. witnessed a slow number in the beginning. Supporters of the candidates were seen at the camps set up outside the polling stations but voters were yet to rush towards the stations in the city, where a large number of voters are government employees. The government offices closed at 2:00 p.m. and after that the polling stations witnessed influx of the government employees. Total 161 out of 1357 registered voters had made their voice known at a female polling station set up inside Islamabad Model School No. 1 in sector I-10/4 by 11:45 in the morning yesterday. 33 out of 348, 24 out of 343, 30 out of 304 and 74 out of 363 registered voters had cast their votes at the four polling booths of polling station no. 5 of UC 42 by afternoon. The male polling station set up in the same building, however, witnessed a bit healthy trend in the morning. Around 71, 88 and 100 votes were polled at three booths by that time. Talking to The Nation, Raja Zubair, who was sitting in a polling camp in I-10 sector, blamed the government for low turnout particularly in the morning. “The government did not declare holiday in the city which is the main cause for low turnout of the voters in the morning,” he believed.

A round of the city polling stations suggested great enthusiasm amongst the supporters but no long queues of the voters in the morning. Polling in the urban areas gained momentum after the closure of offices at 2.00 p.m. Extraordinary rush of the voters was witnessed at a polling station set up near a katchi abadi of ‘100-quarters’ in sector F-6 of the capital. The voters standing in long queues waited for hours for their turn to enter the polling station of UC 25. Some ruling party candidate for the chairman UC slot had allegedly days before the polls paid the collective electricity bill amounting to millions of rupees of the Katchi Abadi housing sanitary workers. PTI’s Attique Khan was contesting PMLN’s Nadir Basheer for chairman slot. Gulfaam, a PTI candidate agent at polling station 4 of UC 25, was of the view that the polling was held in a fair and transparent manner with no pressure from any quarter. “We are happy with the way the process completed,” he added.

The candidates had set up their camps quite close to one another outside the polling stations with no element of hostility on their faces. Two brothers Zeeshan Rauf Butt and Imran Rauf Butt, who were entering the school building, were quite happy that all was heading in a smooth and fair manner. “We have faced no difficulty. We are free to cast our votes according to our will,” Zeeshan said when asked if they faced any difficulty during voting.