LAHORE - The polling in the city, by and large, remained peaceful and smooth with huge participation of the voters and supporters of different parties particularly of enthusiastic and zealous women.

Women voters were quite enthusiastic and in happy mood, raising slogans for their candidates and guiding the voters. Young and old voters decided to hold themselves accountable for the country’s future and thronged polling stations in Lahore, creating a festive atmosphere in the process.

Party dresses

In NA-124, various supporters wearing special dresses that depicted the flags of their parties could be seen moving around the constituency. Many females could also be seen wearing party dresses. There were a large number of people queued up outside the polling station at Government College of Technology in Railway Road.

“We had a great rush of women voters in morning and a majority of them had cast their votes by 3pm,” one of the officers at the polling station told The Nation.  “I have never been so excited about casting my vote. I am supporting Imran Khan this time because he is the leader who can make a change in Pakistan,” said Mrs Kanza Dogar, a voter at the Government College of Technology on Railway Road.

“If I make a mistake today it will become a punishment for me for the next five years, so I’m voting for PTI,” said Muhammad Amjad Khan, a polling agent in Sadaar Cantt.  “I convinced five others friends with me to vote in favour of the PML-N. I’m not really into politics but I believe Nawaz Sharif is the leader who can make this country better,” voter Ramsha Azmat was of the view at the polling station in Samnabad. She wore armbands with PML-N colours on them and had covered her car’s rear screen with a PML-N flag. “It does not matter which candidate the PML-N fields from my constituency. Our vote is always for the lion,” said Ayesha Khan from Old Officers Colony Saddar Cantt.  

Muhammad Aslam, a supporter at the PTI camp outside the polling station at Govt Girls High School, Napier Road, said the whole atmosphere is that of festival and we are enjoying every bit of it. Sitting next to him were two young people who had painted their bodies with colours of PTI flag. They jumped with joy on getting attention and made victory signs with their hands. Close to this were PML-N supporters who were raising slogan of ‘Sher’.

enthusiasm

In Shahdara area, a bridegroom along with his friends came to cast vote while at many place old people came to cast votes on wheelchair, crutches and armpit support. Voter enthusiasm was unprecedented and extraordinary. In the same area at Nain Sukh a polling station was housed in Govt Public High School which remained mostly inaccessible for being marooned by filthy water of the chocked gutters in every street around it. A lot of fan-fairing was seen by youngsters from the two main parties. In the group of motorcycles and carrying respective party flags of various sizes, the youngsters roamed about the city chanting slogans or dancing to the tune of their party slogans. At the party camps, drums beating started soon after the polling time was over while Tehrike Labbaik Pakistan camps played the party slogan throughout. Meantime, at Shahdara, Ghari Shahu, Bhutta Chowk, Mozang Adda, some clashes occurred.

Tattoos

At Johar Town area, a number women and children seemingly from the upper class came in groups on vehicles carrying PTI flags, wearing the party caps and bearing tattoos of the party flag on their cheek. Most of them were also wearing dress in party flag and their presence gave a pleasant look to the people around. 

security

Security was stepped up with the help of army, and the Rangers while military jeeps manned by officers and jawans, continued to patrol.   The voters came out to the polling stations almost everywhere in the city in the early hours of the elections day.

Long queues were seen outside the polling stations in the morning however the voters’ turnout subsided by 12 noon and regained the momentum after 3pm that lasted till the closing of the polling at 6pm. Strict checking was maintained at the polling stations although at some places ban on the carrying the cell phones inside was relaxed to switching the device off.

Sharifs’ vote casting

PML-N leaders Shehbaz Sharif and his sons Hamza Shehbaz Sharif, Salman Shehbaz and daughter cast vote at Government Junior Model School in Model Town. Hamza. National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq cast vote at Allama Iqbal Road while Aleem Khan at Gulberg.

Kh Saad’s smile

An unsavory scene was seen at a Defence polling station where the PTI supporters booed ex-minister Saad Rafiq during his visit. Keeping his cool, Saad just passed a smile. For the transportation, millions of rupees were spent on vehicles by different parties’ candidates. Candidates of political parties booked cars, auto rickshaws, three wheelers, vans and pickups for the transportation of the voters from their doorsteps to polling stations concerned.

Transportation

Majority of the voters were transported by motorcycle rickshaw (three wheelers). A rickshaw union leader told this scribe that out of more than 50000 three wheelers in the city political leaders have booked half number for poling day. More than 4000 vans were booked for poling duty by politicians Motorcycle rickshaw owners were paid Rs. 1000 to 2000 per day and fuel charges were paid separately. Similarly owners of pickups were paid Rs. 2500 to 3500 per day and vans owners Rs. 4000 to 5000.

Also some young charged activists of PTI were seen driving three- wheelers as volunteers. A three wheeler driver Akram operating in NA-128 said, “I am activists of PTI and running my own rickshaw to transport voters from their doorsteps to polling stations free of charge”.

An auto rickshaw driver waiving PML-N flags on his auto was also of the view that he was party worker so he has charged nothing for the transportation of the voters. Some violations were also witnessed committed by the vehicles drivers while dropping the voters close to the polling stations. As per the Election Commission directions, transporters were supposed to drop the voters at least 200 meters away from polling stations from where they would go forward on foot.

pROBLEMS

Problems came across in the polling stations set up in tents in the open places in the city during the rain time. Some voters also complained about the absence of their name in the electoral rolls and some other had also grumbled that they were shuttlecock between polling stations finding their name in the list. Yet some said their votes have been shifted to the area far away from their residences. A very lively activity of the voters was seen throughout the day. So much so that some places presented the scene like carnival that had occasioned mainly due to a pleasant weather.  The voters faced difficulties in rain-hit areas especially in rural areas of Jallo. In the circumstances, the parties as contingency plan had also arranged transportation of the voters. 

Loadshedding, suffocation

Meanwhile, complaints of loadshedding and suffocation were also made at dozens of polling stations, particularly in Misrishah and Farooq Gunj while at some others, the polling staff and the security people had to go without food and water.  At some polling stations, polling started with delay of some minutes while rain in Jallo, Harbanspura, and Dharampura slowed down the polling process. As the rain stopped at around 3pm, an extraordinary gathering of the voters was turned out.  Particularly at polling station housed in Superintending Engineer officer near Dharampura, voters got lined up long outside the station on the road which also caused traffic difficulties.

The police and the army persons ensured that polling camps of the political parties are set up at the prescribed distance and no unnecessary presence of the layman was allowed within 100 yards. The voters present inside the polling stations were allowed to cast vote after the polling time was over. At many stations, the voters were adjusted inside the polling stations in the last moments.