Voting began on Thursday in the by-election to the National Assembly constituency NA-249 Karachi (Karachi West-II) amid strict security arrangements as three major parties — the PTI, the PPP and the PML-N — are in the contest.

The seat fell vacant after Faisal Vawda of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) resigned. The voting started at 8am and will continue till 5pm without a break.

The polling was a bit speedy in the morning, but by noon, the rush at polling stations waned. There were more elderly people who turned to voting than the youth. Due to stringent security measures, the polling was peaceful by midday, with only a skirmish between the MQM and PSP (Pak Sarzameen Party) workers.

Coronavirus SOPs were being implemented strictly. Police and other security personnel were seen refusing entry to polling stations to those voters who did not wear face masks.

There were allegations that women voters were being forced to stamp for a specific party candidate.

MQM candidate Muhammad Mursaleen accused presiding officers of influencing voters. He alleged that in a polling station in UC30 the presiding officer was asking voters to vote for the PPP.

On the other hand, PPP candidate Qadir Khan Mandokhail accused the PSP of creating chaos outside polling stations. He claimed that the PSP workers knew that they would not win, so they have been using unfair tactics.

Meanwhile, Regional Election Commissioner Nadeem Haider issued a directive prohibiting parliamentarians, minister or other public office-bearers from any party from visiting the NA-249 constituency during polling.

A total 30 candidates are contesting the by-election, including PTI’s Amjad Afridi, PML-N’s Miftah Ismail, PPP’S Qadir Khan Mandokhel, former mayor of Karachi Mustafa Kamal and MQM’s Hafiz Mursaleen. There are 18 independent candidates in the run also.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has deployed special staff for strict implementation of coronavirus guidelines while the Sindh government has announced a public holiday.

There are 339,000 registered voters in the constituency, including 201,656 male and 137,935 female voters. The ECP has set up 276 polling stations of whom 184 have been declared highly sensitive and 92 sensitive. CCTV cameras have been installed at highly sensitive polling stations.

SHEHBAZ SHARIF: PML-N President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, in a message to the voters of NA-249, appealed “to leave your homes and exercise your constitutional and democratic right to vote responsibly.”

Shehbaz said the public can elect a competent and honest leader with their power to vote.

He also asked the people to take care of themselves and others around them in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

THE PAST: Prime Minister Imran Khan contested his first election from this constituency in 1997. At that time it was NA-184.

In 2008, PPP’s Abdul Qadir Patel; in 2013, MQM’s Muhammad Salman Baloch and in 2018, Faisal Vawda emerged victors.

PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif contested election – first time in Karachi – against Vawda and lost by only 723 votes.

More to follow


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