THE NATION REPORTING TEAM
LAHORE - Tension gripped the local bodies’ elections in city although the polling by and large remained peaceful and smooth on Saturday.
Most of the polling stations in the city were declared sensitive and as such a fear prevailed during the polling. Some incidents of clashes and exchange of hot words between the rival camps took place, however no major clash took place throughout the polling hours.
The 274 UCs of the city combined both urban and rural constituencies where women voters displayed significant participation in the Local Bodies election. Voters’ turnout varied in different union councils and overall it has been estimated between 40 and 45 per cent.
Reports about late start of polling came out at some places but delay was not inordinate. Long queues of the voters were seen even before start of polling at 7:30am at many places although camp offices of the candidates were seen within the prohibited limits at some places.
Participation of women voters was quite significant particularly in Canal View, Johar Town, Shadman, Shah Jamal, Samnabad Garden Town, Icchra and Westwood where women voters outnumbered the males. ajority said they voted the PTI which was generally perceived a reaction after Imran Khan divorced Reham.
Complaints about missing names in the voter lists and shifting of votes to the remote areas were learned but they were not from the persons of any specific party. No major incident of violence took place and Rangers contingents continued to patrol the areas.
At some places people complained of slow polling while some voters returned homes after witnessing long queues. In the morning, polling picked up pace and later in the noon it came down and again went up during the last two hours of the scheduled time.
Old people and disabled also came to cast vote. An 85-year-old devoted woman, Asghari Begum, cast vote in UC 126.
Although actual contest was perceived between the ruling PML-N and the PTI yet at many UCs, independents appeared leading both these parties with visible margins. The PPP, this time, failed to make any mark in the Local government election. In most of the UCs, no PPP candidate was fielded and where the party did, their presence was not countable. It alleged that the PML-N used police and polling staff to stop its voters from casting votes in the PPP-dominated areas.
PPP’s Lahore Secretary Information Faisal Mir said that police took control of a polling station in UC-232 and stopped polling for quite some time. He claimed it was a PPP-dominated constituency and voters were prevented from casting votes.
“Polling staff kicked out PPP polling agents from a polling station in UC-214,” he further alleged, adding that women and Christian voters were also harassed in UC -241 by the PML-N goons.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cast his vote in UC 70 in Lahore. The constituency is known as his ‘home ground’ as he has returned to the Assembly from the same constituency in the May 2013 general elections. Chief Minister Shahaz Sharif cast his vote in one of the Model Town UCs.
The PTI had set up an election monitoring cell at the office of PTI MNA Shafqat Mehmood to collect record of poll rigging in Lahore. “We are monitoring the whole voting process in Lahore and keeping a record of the irregularities and rigging,” a PTI member said at the office.
PPP members had lodged a protest under ex-MPA Sajida Mir after polling remained stalled at the UC-70 Railway Road to wait for the arrival of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
PML-N and the PTI had arranged their respective transport to give and drop to the voters while majority of the voters of these parties came on their own.
In UC-140, Salamatpura, Chairman candidate Ch Ali Imran had brought tigers to his camp office which attracted attention of everyone. The sight also became fear striking for some persons. Since the tigers were placed inside the cage made in a camp office, nobody objected.
In UC-148 Tajpura, a huge activity of the voters was seen. A total of around 65 per cent turnout was recorded by the late afternoon. Legislators of the PML-N and the PTI were seen roaming about the constituencies in the city encouraging their voters and supporters.
Generally it was peaceful polling. However at certain places allegations against law enforcers and the polling staff were levelled which made the situation tense.
In UC 152, the security was quite loose as only two policemen were appointed inside and outside each women polling station while at the combined polling station of Ward 3 of the same UC, people were allowing entry inside without any checking and only a single cop was sitting on the gate and around half a dozen clustered inside busy gossiping.
At the same UC, the PTI workers complained against the Assistance Presiding Officer Irshad that he was favouring the rival PML-N and spoiling votes of PTI by making the old voters stamp wrongly.
The situation led the PTI workers stood up against the staffer but the area SHO intervened brought the situation under control. Irshad told this scribe the allegations were wrong as he had only objected to the appointment of an authorised person as polling agent of the PTI.
After little pause in the polling from this incident in the morning, the voting continued peacefully in rest of the day. In UC-183 Jallo Kashmir Mohallah, supporters of an Independent candidate protested against the police for freely allowing entry to the PML-N man and restricted their voters.
One Shakeel had an altercation with Constable Ali Raza and situation remained tense for long. However the elders intervened to control the situation while no other police person was seen to cool down the matter.
In UC-182 Rehmanpura and Sultanpura, party posters were displayed on the doors and wall of the polling station housed in a school. In a Green Town polling station, one Bilal Asghar was caught red handed while he was stamping the ballot papers in the room adjacent to that Presiding Officer. Police took him into custody after quizzing him and drove to the police station.
An imposter was caught trying to cast vote in Kahna posing himself as magistrate. He reportedly misbehaved with election staff that led to suspicion that he might be an imposter. Three persons were arrested with weapons in Samanabad when they were trying to enter a polling station.