Karachi - Polling agent is a spinal cord for any political party on election day and his activities can be a make or break for any party, said the seasoned journalist Abdul Jabbar Nasir, who had covered various elections in Karachi.

According to the polling scheme given by the Election Commission of Pakistan, there are around 18,000 polling booths established in the city with an almost equal ratio for both men and women.

He said that in past the role of polling agent was limited in Karachi due to the violent activities from certain political parties and open rigging, however in this poll, the responsibility on the agent is doubled due to improved law and order situation.

Nasir said that in the current scenario only Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal has the capability to ensure presence of polling agent on each booth in polls. “In past, MQM has this capability but since its party structure has been divided among PSP and other political parties, it could face problems in the scenario,” he said.

Khateeb Ullah Khan, who had served as presiding officer in various polls since 1998, said that from monitoring the entire election process on the poll day to collect results is the main responsibility that only a polling agent is authorized for from the ECP. 

Narrating the code of conduct he said that they could only allow a polling agent in the booth after checking his authority letter from candidate along with his badge and original national identity card.

“The badge (identity card) would contain his name, candidate’s name, his NIC, number and name of constituency and number and name of polling station but it should not have the reflection of party.”

Elaborating the process, he further said that the presiding officer would show empty ballot box(es) before the start of poll and the polling agent would record his particulars in Form-42 (Statement regarding inspection of ballot boxes before start of poll). As per the code of conduct, the polling agent is the only authority who could raise objection on any voter on the ground that the voter has already voted in the election at the same or another polling station, or is not the person whose name is entered in the electoral roll.

At the end of the polling, the polling agent has the most authentic copy of the result that is Form-45 (Result of the Count) and Form-46 (Ballot Paper Account) prepared by the presiding officer, he said adding that the agent could put his seal on the packets prepared and sealed by the presiding officer.

Party position

Jamaat-i-Islami Election Cell Incharge in Karachi, Raja Arif Sultan said that the party has the most organised grass root level infrastructure in the city and with the coordination of other parties of the MMA they have assigned duties of polling agents.

“In past also our polling agents have faced threats and violent activity but became a source of inspiration for others in resisting such attempt,” he said adding that although this election could not witness such activity but any state level interference could hamper the process and their agent could not do anything against it except transmitting it to the party.

Pak Sarzameen Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement seem confident of having the total number of well equipped polling agents for the poll day.    

PSP leader Muhammad Dilawar - who is heading party election cell - said that they formed different teams who are training party’s polling agents at constituencies level.  “Our party has agents for all polling booths and they would ensure that elections are carried out in free and faire atmosphere.”

Although the PTI and PPP-who has for the first time fielded candidates from al Karachi constituencies- leadership is claiming that it had the required number of agents but the sources said that both of them are struggling in the process.

Women Representation

Since only women could be deployed at women polling booths-that are almost half of total polling booths- the women activists of the party are also playing a key role in the party’s election activity.  “Since women booths had received more complaints of rigging in past polls, therefore we have fully prepared our women to tackle such situations,” said the JI election cell chief.  Dilawar Hussain of PSP said that their women were also well equipped to deal with the process.