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Aug 25th monitoring of local elections

Polling for the second phase of the local bodies elections was conducted on Aug 25th 2005 for a total of 56 districts of the country i.e. in 18 districts of Punjab, 12 districts of Sindh, 13 in Balochistan and 13 in NWFP. As was the case for the first phase on Aug 18 th, there were a number of international ,national and media observers in different districts of the country ,filing their reports on the degree of fairness of the polls and the situation on ground.

Individual-land field observers were also present on Aug 25th in various parts of the country but for this e-input, we would like to concentrate on reporting those incidents which have not been reported by the media or the international observers. Most of these incidents are from Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh provinces. Before we actually report on the various districts , we would like to highlight general violations that were found at each of the places observed. These are :

The Election Commission of Pakistan had prohibited the use of mobile phones within the polling station. However, at various areas of the country spanning the four provinces where individual-land field observers were present mobile phones were being used. The only exception were districts in Balochistan other than Quetta. This exception was not because the ECP issued order was respected rather there is no mobile phone coverage in these districts.

The polling staff were not wearing any identification cards. The only exception was at the polling stations at Hyderabad, Loralai and Quetta where the staff was wearing ID cards.

There was a general confusion over the ballot papers issued to the voter. Most voters insisted on only getting one ballot paper but the staff used to give them six and in some areas like in Rawalpindi they gave out 5 ballot papers. A number of voters complained that this was confusing, time consuming and by the time they reached the ballot box they forgot the election symbols of their candidates.

At most of the female polling stations, the female election staff had also brought their children with them.

These were the general comments as reported by our field observers. Now to turn to the incidents in various areas not reported by the media and other observers :

Hyderabad, Sindh: Individual-land field observers were present at three polling stations in Hyderabad namely Latif Girls High School, Latif Boys High School and Wapda Polling station. At all the three polling stations, there was not a single polling agent of the candidates belonging to the non MQM backed group. In other words, while the ballot paper showed the election symbols of the candidates backed by PPPP ,MMA etc their polling agents were not present there .Questioning by individual-land field observers from the people revealed that polling stations in that area had been taken over by the MQM workers. To back up this e-input, individual-land field observers wanted to take a picture but they were refrained from doing so by the polling agents of the MQM backed candidates present at the stations. The police was present but did not take notice of the situation.

Quetta,Balochistan: At the APWA Girls High School Polling station on Tahir Mohammad Khan Road a fight broke out between the female polling agents whereby they proceeded to break the windows of the school resulting in polling being stopped twice. At this polling station, a male candidate also entered the female polling station and started abusing the polling agents of his rival group.

At the Women Technical College, the female polling agents attacked the Presiding officer, pulling at her hair but polling was not stopped. It is important to note that at both of these stations male police was present and not female. When asked as to why the police was not intervening, the answer was that it is a female fight and how could the male police intervene? When the women started breaking windows at the APWA Girls High School, the most the male police did was to threaten to hit them with a stick , thus shooing them away but they succeeded in breaking the windows anyway. Bogus voting was also attempted at the APWA Girls High School polling station but stopped by the Presiding Officer.

Incidents of violence were also reported by individual-land field observers in other parts of Quetta namely at Saryab Road and Gawal Mandi where fighting broke out between supporters of different candidates, with three of them hospitalized with minor injuries. In Abdul Sattar area, two people were seriously injured by rival candidates fighting and are said to be in serious condition at the hospital. There was exchange of fire between rival groups at Kakar Colony and Satellite Town, with a person sustaining bullet injuries.

Kolu, Balochistan: In the Nawad Tehsil of Kolu district, a Frontier Corps helicopter was fired at from the ground by locals .The helicopter was not damaged but as a reaction 5 people were arrested by the FC. In the Kolu tehsil polling station, a Mohammad Akbar tried to steal the ballot box but was arrested by the police.

Loralai, Balochistan: At the Duki tehsil of the district ,5 people were arrested for trying to disrupt polling by threatening voters.

Musakhel, Balochistan: Three people were arrested for entering the polling station with arms concealed under their clothes.

Rawalpindi, Punjab: Individual-land field observers were present at polling stations of Union Council 20 and Union Council 34. At one of the female polling stations of UC 20 situated at Municipal Council School, candidates for the Naib Nazim and Nazim were summoned by the Presiding Officer to discuss a problem with voter lists. The male candidates went inside the room where the Presiding Officer was sitting and discussed the problem. What exactly the problem was , it was not shared with the observers in spite of questioning. The candidates discussed the problem and then emerged from the room claiming that the problem had been solved amicably. Polling was not stopped while the problem was being discussed.

The polling staff at the polling stations of both the Union Councils observed by individual-land were not wearing identification cards and use of mobile phones by voters, polling agents, polling staff and even the police men on duty was rampant. At one of the polling stations of UC 34, the nearby police SHO visited the station and was seen to be using his mobile phone within the station. The only time that mobile phones were switched off was at the time of counting at UC 34 and that too at the insistence of individual-land field observers and observers of Pattan, a non governmental organization present at that time. It is interesting to note that at UC 20 the individual-land field observer cast his vote but the polling staff graciously did not mark his finger telling him that his hands will get dirty and that since he was an observer, it didn't matter. The observer however insisted on getting his ink mark!

At the polling stations of UC 20, ink was scarce and they had to ask for more ink. Individual-land field observers reported that at UC 34 polling stations five ballot papers were being given to the voters while at UC 20 six papers were being given. Most of the voters were confused as to which ballot paper was for whom and there were frequent complaints of names not being on the voter lists ,particularly at the female polling stations of the Union Councils 20 and 34.

No women police were seen at the female polling stations in UC 20 and UC 34.

Individual-land field observers were also present at the time of counting at UC 34.They observed that a number of votes were spoilt with the voters not putting the stamp correctly and in majority of cases the ballots had no stamps. Most of the votes that were spoilt pertained to candidates for members of the Union Council while the Naib Nazim and Nazim votes were correct. After the counting , individual-land field observers spoke to the local people gathered outside the station who confided in them that since they were given 5 ballot papers they thought that the polling staff was making them cast bogus votes. So the people reported that they stamped one ballot paper while the others were cast blank.

These were some of the incidents that individual-land wanted to share with it's readers as they have not been reported by other quarters. In conclusion, we would like to state that from an individual citizen's perspective there are a number of points of concern pertaining to the local elections. A detailed input would follow focused on that but for now we would like to state that the impounding of vehicles by the government for election duty is unjust to say the least causing a lot of problems to the individual citizen. Much has been written about this problem by the local media but this problem needs to addressed rather than merely reported.




individualland.com (Last Updated Wednesday, 26 October 2016)

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