LAHORE - Untrained and poorly-equipped staff, VVIPs visits and clashes among rivals slowed down the polling process, causing voters to stand in long queues for hours to exercise their right to vote.
Chaotic conditions were observed at majority of the polling stations in Lahore as people pushed and shoved each others to rush to cast their votes with the Police failing to control the situation.
The situation was expected as the Election Commission didn’t make sufficient arrangements despite several warnings of the Returning Officers.
“The ECP didn’t make sufficient arrangements to hold free, fair and transparent elections. ROs, most of them doing such duty for the first time, were not provided resources to properly supervise and monitor the election process. The ECP didn’t provide funds for training of polling staff on multi-media. It was taking 15-20 minutes to one voter to cast his/her vote as staff lacked knowledge and experience of elections. Untrained staff slowed down the process that ultimately led to chaos at polling stations”, said one official appointed as a returning officer for eight Union Councils in Lahore.
Infuriated by not allowing entry due to extraordinary rush in the polling station at Govt Girls College Baghbanpura because of slow process, voters clashed with Police and blocked Shalamar Road in protest.
The VVIPs visits also played a part in slowing and even suspending the election process at a number of polling stations throughout Lahore.
Ex-Speaker National Assembly, federal and provincial ministers, MNAs, MPAs and other VVIPs suspended polling process, causing inconvenience to the voters but for a brief period.
People who come to cast their votes at Madrasa-tul-Binat polling station Sarai Sultan go through the agony of waiting for their turn for over two hours. The premises was sealed and the entry/exit roads to Madrasa-tul-Binat were closed for security reason as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cast his vote in the afternoon. The Police barricaded the gate, entry/exit roads and no one was allowed to enter the premises. After the departure of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the Police opened the gate and resumed polling but not before two hours of suspension.
Clashes between rival groups, mostly between activists of the ruling PML-N and the opposition PTI, also led to suspension of polling in different union councils. The voters were the ultimate sufferers of the inefficiency of the Election Commission and inability of the Police to maintain law and order outside the polling stations.