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Devolution begins: LG polls end with Violence, allegations

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KP LG Polls violence-1433008733-478-640x480

Voters wait to be allowed to enter the polling station set up in Ganj TB Center. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD IQBAL/EXPRESS

MARDAN / DI KHAN / CHARSADDA / KARAK / NOWSHERA / PESHAWAR: Devolution of power under a democratically-elected government took place for the first time in the history of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Even as the intricate process of devolving authority and governance is yet to be made official, the much-awaited, much-touted and much criticised polls came to a hairy end by the evening of May 30, leaving at least 11 dead and over 35 injured across the province.

The fatalities were a result of sporadic violence in the province as the government and the ECP engaged in an indirect blame game, accusing each other of mismanagement.

In some districts, voters were left unsatisfied as polling came to a close before they could make it inside the station. In other areas, voting started late. Candidates were left with a bitter aftertaste as some of them were left out of ballot papers.

High turnout, slow voting

Thousands in the provincial capital flocked to polling stations after breakfast, even those who were initially reluctant to participate.

Yet missing symbols on ballot papers, delayed starts at polling stations and a lack of transport slowed things down considerably. Then voters saw the seven ballot papers they had to cast and the day crawled at a snail’s pace. Each voter took anywhere between six and 16 minutes to cast their votes.

#Womenvote

Women, who are often left nameless and voiceless, managed to come out and vote, but not everywhere and not nearly enough in numbers.

A jirga in Battagram banned women from voting, while only a few women in Dir voted, according to observers. Peshawar saw a large turnout which polling stations were not equipped to handle. As a result, brawls and mismanagement were the order of the day at women stations.

Swat also saw a decent turnout, but not in tehsils like Kabal.

Election violence

At least eight were killed in Charsadda, two in DI Khan and one in Kohat in various showdowns.

In addition, violence left dozens injured in Peshawar. Talking to The Express Tribune, Lady Reading Hospital Spokesperson Syed Jamal Shah confirmed 29 people were moved to Lady Reading Hospital and the condition of one child, who was crushed by a vehicle on election duty, was serious, while the others were stable.

Three people were injured outside Government High School for Boys No4 when unidentified people started firing around 1pm. “Everything is under control; several people have been arrested on suspicion,” said an official of Yakatoot police station. He added the CCPO and SSP operations were checking security arrangements personally.

Over in Shagai Hindkyan village of Mathra, two people were stabbed when political parties clashed. PTI worker Sher Ali Khan and ANP’s Tahir Khan were rushed to the hospital where their condition was said to be stable.

By the same token in Nasapa village, PTI and PPP supporters clashed which soon resulted in an exchange of fire at a women’s polling station. “At least three women were injured in the stampede which followed,” said a Khazana police officer.

Districts

In Rashakai, Nowshera, unidentified assailants opened fire at a polling station and later torched election material, sending the presiding officers running to save their skin.

Polling was halted in Misri Bhanda, Gaju Khel, and Gandap polling stations as independent candidates brawled.

Unidentified armed men broke into two polling stations in Toru, Mardan and took away ballot boxes and election material.

Two were injured in Bannu during a brawl between independent candidates in Mandan UC while five others were injured in firing in Wapda Colony. Security forces were called in.

On the outskirts of Karak district, unidentified culprits attacked multiple polling stations and took away ballot boxes along with other election material.

Candidates torched two polling stations in Gandi and Shaheedan, however, no cases were filed against them.

Rigging

In the middle of the day, polling stopped at Nasapa Payan polling station in the city after Jamaat-e-Islami activists claimed Pakistan Peoples Party workers were forcing women to vote in PPP’s favour. According to JI activists, former MPA Malik Tehmash Khan had allegedly entered the polling station for this purpose.

Clashes erupted between PTI and tripartite alliance workers over rigging allegations in Matta Mughul Khel, Shabqadar. As a result, polling came to a halt for a few hours.

Awami National Party workers stopped polling at a station in Shabqadar MC2 over alleged rigging by a PTI polling agent. Similarly, a police constable was found with a polling stamp he was using for PTI.

Another scuffle broke out between PTI and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz workers at a school in Lachra, DI Khan over rigging. As a result, the polling process temporarily stopped but was eventually resumed.

Meanwhile, workers from various political parties tore ballot papers and damaged property at Government Girls Secondary School Rashakai in Nowshera over fake votes.

Nowshera DC suspended polling in various polling stations in the city and decided to hold re-elections in these areas.

Behind bars

Police arrested three people who were casting fake votes for a candidate on a general councillor seat at Government Girls Primary School in Hayatabad, Phase III. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl candidate in Charsadda Mufti Gohar Ali was arrested for breaching law and order.

SSP Operations Mian Saeed registered 16 FIRs and police arrested 45 people from across Peshawar district for attacking police officials and taking polling staff hostage.

Published in The Express Tribune

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