Rawalpindi - The mismanagement at polling stations, misbehaviour of police, lack of facilities, and late start of polling along with slow pace of work by presiding and assistant presiding officers marred the electoral process and created problems for the voters in many polling stations in the city.

Many voters were queued up outside the polling stations in hot and humid weather while many were shuttling between the stations in search of their vote in the list. Reportedly, errors were also found in voter lists in some areas of Rawalpindi as those who had died years ago were still included in the voter lists issued by Election Commission of Pakistan.

In urban areas, no booth was set up for senior citizens contrary to the claims of Election Commission of Pakistan. In many polling stations, police barred senior citizens from entering inside and ordered them to stay in the queue and poll votes on their turn. Despite assurance, scores of polling stations were without proper seating arrangements, fans, cool drinking water and washrooms. Polling agents of PTI and PML-N also lodged complaints of non-provision of food and water by their candidates.  Movement of armed political workers were also observed around the polling stations in NA-59.

According to details, constituencies of NA-59, NA-63, NA-61 and NA-62 were marked by huge mismanagement and lack of basic facilities.  

Most of the polling stations in these constituencies were set up in small and congested rooms with no proper furniture while some stations did not have an adequate number of staff to handle the large number of voters.  Despite the directives of Punjab Caretaker government, no heat stroke centre was established in and around the polling stations.  Carrying mobile phones inside the polling stations was not allowed by Army officials and local police sparking protest on part of voters.

Mobile phone was allowed to polling staff, army men but not for the polling agents of the candidates. 

Owing to incomplete arrangements and late arrival of election material, voting started at about at 8:45am at a polling station in Basic Health Unit (BHU) Hayyal Sharif, Government Vocational Training Centre Bank Colony, Government Girls Primary School Kalyal. Government Girls High School No.I, Ghazni Road, Government Gordon College and Ziaul Islam School Raja Bazaar. 

 “We arrived in polling stations at 7am but were handed the polling equipment very late due to which polling started after a delay of 45 minutes,” said a female presiding officer at BHU Hayyal while talking to The Nation on Wednesday.

She said the ECP had also not provided them basic facilities such as water, chairs, tables and fans.

“It seems we are detained in a cage to perform our polling duties. There are two small rooms allotted the presiding officers, the polling agents and the security personnel. We hardly managed our seating, how we can deal with voters,” asked a presiding officer in a polling station at Adiala Road in NA-59.

She said many voters fell unconscious due to humidity and harsh weather in the area.

Some of the women who had come to cast their votes early in the morning returned home after shuttling between two polling stations in Gawalmandi. “I arrived early morning but am going back as the government school polling staff said that your votes are not here even though the message of election Commission stated otherwise,” Samina Naz, at Gawalmandi.  

Meanwhile, the slow process of voting also created problems for the people who had to go through a three-time physical check up and form a queue to enter the room where the staff took 20 minutes for each person.  

“I arrived at poll my vote at 9am, it is 12:25pm now and I am still waiting for my turn. The presiding officers are dealing with the voters in a very slow manner,” said Mrs Asima Shabbir.

The ECP and the candidates should provide the voters with shades in the scorching heat, said Sabika Khan, a female voter who was sweating in a line outside a polling station in the  city. 

Due to this, a total of 234 votes were casted till 3pm while the number of registered voters was 1700, said a polling officer.  “The ECP had deployed more people at polling stations to speed up the process,” said Babar Ahmed. 

At some polling stations of Ziaul Islam, Dhoke Ratta, Gowalmandi, Saddar, Naseerabad, Tench Bhatta, Govt. Gordon College, St. Marry’s High School, Milat Colony, Saidpuri Gate and other areas, the presiding officers complained that they had not been provided ink pads, envelops and other stationary and asked to arrange locally. 

“The election material had been delivered to us after midnight at 3:00 am or 3:45 am and we spent the whole night awake to wait for the election material,” they complained.