Voting continues amid suspension of internet, mobile phone service

Voting has begun on Sunday morning in by-elections on five national and 16 provincial assembly seats amid suspension of internet and mobile phone service and tight security.

There was not a single voter in the polling stations at around 8:15 in the morning due to a Sunday close. Even there was no polling agents were present in the camps set up outside polling stations to guide voters.

Rangers and army officials were deployed in some sensitive constriuencies.

Mobile phone and internet service was suspended in 13 cities of Punjab early in the morning and likely to remain off until late night. The Punjab Home Department wrote a letter to the Ministry of Interior seeking suspension of internet.

Cellular and internet services will remain suspended in Lahore, Sheikhupura, Kasur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Talagang, Gujrat, Alipur, Zafarwal, Bhakkar, Chakwal, Sadiqabad, Alipur Chattha and Kot Chattha.

Elections were originally scheduled for 23 constituencies. However, the results of two of those seats, one provincial and one national, have already been announced.

THE POLLING

Polling will be held from 8 am until 5 pm without any break. There are five National Assembly, 12 Punjab Assembly, two Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and two Balochistan Assembly seats are up for grabs.

Approximately 2.55 million voters will use their right to franchise for the NA constituencies, while around 3.61 million people will cast votes for 16 provincial assembly seats nationwide.

The Election Commission (ECP) has provided 6.23 million ballot papers to the returning officers (ROs) concerned which were handed over to presiding officers from their camp offices on Saturday.

MONITORING AND CONTROL ROOMS

According to a spokesperson of the ECP, an Election Monitoring and Control Center has been established to monitor the by-elections. The center will have the facility for people to contact and register their complaints regarding the election.

The spokesperson said a prompt action would be taken to resolve the complaints in a timely manner. For this purpose, trained staff has been appointed in the control center.

Control centers have been set up at four levels for registration of voter complaints and their prompt resolution.

THE CANDIDATES

A total 174 candidates are contesting the by-elections for 12 provincial constituencies in Punjab, where the voter count stands at approximately 4.04 million.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, there are 49 candidates in the race, while 892 polling stations have been set up, with 139 identified as sensitive.

In NA-196 Sindh, two candidates will compete, with 423,781 voters eligible to cast their ballots across 303 polling stations, 158 of which are sensitive, according to the ECP.

The ECP has announced that by-elections will take place for two provincial constituencies, PB-20 and PB-22, in Balochistan. A total 396,246 voters will cast votes, with 354 polling stations designated for the process.

Nine candidates, including Ali Pervaiz and Shehzad Farooq, are vying for the National Assembly seat NA-119 Lahore, while 11 candidates, including PML-N nominee Malik Riaz independent Muhammad Khan Madani, are competing in PP-147.

Additionally, 14 candidates, including Muhammad Shoaib Siddiqui and Qaiser Shehzad from the Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party, are contesting in PP-149. In PP-158, there are 22 candidates, with Chaudhry Nawaz and Moonis Elahi of the Sunni Unity Council among them.

Furthermore, PP-164 has 20 candidates in the fray, with PML-N leader Rashid Minhas and Muhammad Yusuf of the Sunni Ittehad Council among the contenders.

THE ELECTION DAY

Polling was suspended in Sheikhupura’s PP-139 Ferozwala constituency after three people sustained injuries when workers of the Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) exchanged fire.

The fist fight and firing incident took place in Government Primary School Nizampura reported on the issue of setting up polling camp.

As firing began, women voters started running in panic to save their lives. The Ferozwala police remained a silent spectator as the activists continued to throw punches at each other.

In Punjab, 2,599 polling stations have been set up for voting.

According to Punjab police spokesperson, of them, 419 polling stations have been declared as very sensitive and 1,082 sensitive.

He said 663 polling stations are for men, 649 for women and 1,289 are joint stations.

Meanwhile, in Kasur, 2,500 police, army and Rangers personnel will perform duty in 342 polling stations. A control room has been set up in the DPO’s office to monitor the whole district. CCTV cameras have been installed in 60 sensitive polling stations.