=> ISLAMABAD, Feb 8: The Election Commission has redu
ISLAMABAD, Feb 8: The Election Commission has reduced the number of polling stations for the February 18 polls despite the fact that the number of voters in the updated computerised electoral rolls has increased by around 900,000 from that in the list for the 2002 polls.
Though the number of polling stations in Islamabad, Punjab, Balochistan and the NWFP shows a small increase, it has been reduced by 551 in Sindh and 12 in Federally Administered Tribal Areas taking the total number of polling stations down to 64,176 from 64,470 in 2002.
The commission, in line with the guidelines included in its own report on the 2002 elections, was expected to increase the number of polling stations in view of the substantial addition of voters on the list. Under the EC’s guidelines, a polling station may cater for 1000-1200 voters.
EC secretary Kanwar Muhammad Dilshad, when contacted, said nothing had been done in violation of rules and laws. He said a polling station could serve from 1200 to 2200 voters.
Asked to comment on allegations that the EC had become a part of pre-poll rigging plan, he said the commission was strictly working in accordance with the law. About the PPP’s concern that polling stations in Karachi had been located in the so-called ‘no-go areas’ for the opposition, he said the provincial election commission had been directed to look into the matter and submit
He regretted an allegation about ‘ghost polling stations’ and said that the location of 64,176 polling stations had been notified in the official gazette.
He said that candidates or their polling agents could visit the polling stations to eliminate the possibility of the so-called ghost polling stations.
About expenses to be incurred on the polls he said these would not exceed Rs one billion.
Some analysts term the reduction in the number of polling stations an attempt to cut poll expenses at the cost of rules and laws.
In Sindh, where the number of registered voters has increased by 3.41 million, the number of polling stations has been reduced by 551. For the ‘02 polls, 13,957 polling stations with 37,132 polling booths were set up in Sindh for 16.88 million voters. This time, 13,406 polling stations with 39,329 polling booths will be set up for 19.50 million registered voters in the province.
In Punjab, 37,504 polling stations were set up in 2002 for 148 National Assembly seats. The number of voters has since gone up from 41,268,876 to 44,485,896, and the Commission plans to set up 37,636 polling stations.
In the NWFP, there were 8,055 polling stations for 8,854,393 voters in 2002 and this year, 8,173 polling stations will be set up for 10,661,212 voters. In Fata, there were 1,134 polling stations for 1,283,974 voters in 2002, but their number will be reduced to 1,122 for 1,410,326 voters. In Balochistan, 3,440 polling stations were for 39,26,058 voters in 2002 and 3,457 will be set up for 43,636,610 voters this year.
In the federal capital, 380 polling stations with 798 polling booths had been set up for 383,606 registered voters in the 2002 general election. Now the number of voters has risen to 482,801 and 382 polling stations with 1,023 polling booths have been planned.
Under the EC’s guidelines, polling station has to be located in government buildings, and if a government building is not available, an improvised station on a public property may be set up. No police station or a levy post are allowed to be used for the purpose.
For about 200 voters in a village, only one polling station with 3 or 4 booths may be set up. But for more than 200-300 voters in a remote area or village, and if the area is 10 to 15 kilometres away from the main polling station, a new station shall be established.