MIRPUR (AJK)-The polling for the by-election to Mirpur (LA-3) seat of Azad Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly held on Sunday in, what independent observers say, a free, fair and peaceful atmosphere.

The polling started at 8:00am in the morning and continued till 5:00pm in the evening without any pause. The seat had fallen vacant following disqualification of the AJK’s ruling PML-N’s MLA and minister Chaudhry Muhammad Saeed by the AJK Supreme Court in a contempt of court case on September 25 this year. Saeed had been elected in July 2016 elections to the State Legislative Assembly.

A total of 14 candidates were in the run in the election. Prominent among the contestants included PTI’s nominee Barrister Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry, (former Prime Minister of AJK) and PML-N’s Ch Sohaib Saeed (the son of former lawmaker Ch Muhammad Saeed). PPP (AJK unit), AJK Muslim Conference and Jamaat-e-Islami had not fielded their respective candidates in the by-election. Majority of the candidates in the run were independent candidates.

Independent observers termed the holding of the by-election in most peaceful, free, fair and transparent environment unprecedented in the electoral history of this Jaat-dominated constituency. Both the close contestants including PTI’s Barrister Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry and PML N’s Sohaib Saeed Chaudhry belong to the same Jaat tribe. The constituency has a total of 59,494 registered voters including 27,004 female voters. An attractive turn-out was observed in by-poll to the State Legislative Assembly.

The AJK Election Commission had made adequate arrangements and had established a total of 119 polling stations - 49 male, 47 female and 23 joint polling stations to facilitate the voters.

Acting Chief Election Commissioner / Senior Member of the Election Commission Judge (r) Abdul Rasheed Sulehriya, District Returning Officer / District and Sessions Judge Mian Naeem Ullah, Commissioner Mirpur Division Muhammad Tayyeb, DIG Police Mirpur Div Sardar Gulfraz Khan, Deputy Commissioner Raja Mumtaz Tahir, Senior Superintendent Police Raja Irfan Salim and other officials of the district administration closely monitored the election process whole the day by visiting scores of polling stations to supervise and review the holding of the polling in free, fair and peaceful environment.

“The polling held in absolutely free, fair and peaceful atmosphere and there is no any report of any disturbance or major incident from any polling stations”, said SSP Raja Irfan Salim when contacted by this correspondent Saturday evening.

Irfan said that the local authorities including police had made adequate arrangements to maintain peace and order to ensure holding of the polls in free, fair and peaceful environment.

The foolproof arrangements to maintain law and order especially during the polling were made with the deployment of a total of 2,719 personnel of police including 25 DSPs and 9 SPs in LA-3 Mirpur city constituency which was divided into 8 zones comprising 20 sectors. Quick Response Police commando force aboard 34 QRF fast-moving vehicles remained at high alert to deal with any eventuality.

The contingent of only 20 police constables headed by a police inspector was deputed at each highly sensitive polling station.

The district police chief said that a Sub Inspector police with 18 cops were deputed at each sensitive polling station. Whereas and ASI-led police contingent comprising 15 cops were deputed at each normal polling station.

Meanwhile, police rounded up a resident of Sudhanoti district for displaying arms outside a polling station during polling.