BOTH the bye-elections, held at Gujrat and Dera Ismail Khan on Wednesday, for a seat each in the Punjab and NWFP provincial assemblies, were won by candidates with a narrow margin. Polling about 27,000 votes, PML-N candidate at Gujrat, Haji Imran Zafar, defeated his principal competitor PML-Qs Imran Masood who received more than 24,000 votes. In D. I. Khan, Samiullah Alizai of PPP polled about 24,000 against his rival JUI-Fs Maulana Lutfullah, brother of the party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who got around 22,000 votes. The fight, in both cases, was neck-to-neck. When the PPP decided to put its weight behind the PML-N in the Gujrat polls, the election became a close contest and, for all the effort of Qs top leadership that hails from the town, its candidate lagged behind the main rival, though by just about 2,500 votes. Nevertheless, this proves the point that the PML-Q, having lost the 2008 general election from this constituency, has regained some support and without the PPPs help, it would have been difficult for the PML-N to win. Unfortunately, some polling stations in the Gujrat constituency became the scenes of brawls and scuffles fought between the activists of the two sides, leading to injuries to some and arrests of rowdy elements. That was despite the presence of heavy contingents of the police and Rangers deployed to keep the peace. Reportedly, a truck full of arms and sticks (dandas) was caught by the authorities and a number of PML-Q workers were held and accused of involvement in the case. The party, on its part, denied the charge and said that they were, in fact, its voters who were on their way to the polling stations and had nothing to do with the weapons. And, consistent with another unhealthy tradition in our country, where the losing side invariably levels allegations of rigging, PML-Q accused the winning party of using official machinery and funds, seriously questioned the presence of six Special Branch personnel from Gujranwala at the polling stations, and employing strong-arm tactics. The eager participation of political parties in the electoral contests and the public enthusiasm in the process are a reflection of the peoples urge for democratic governance. But, it must be acknowledged, that neither the unwillingness of the losing side to accept the results nor the resort to unfair means whether by those in power or others would strengthen the institution of democracy that the country stands badly in need of. The situation in Pakistan demands party leaderships to earnestly work to remove these unhealthy trends.