MQM wins seat with huge margin
By Habib Khan Ghori
KARACHI: Muttahida Qaumi Movement candidate Saifuddin Khalid swept to victory in PS-94 by-election by getting 91,397 votes of the 92,125 votes cast on Sunday, according to unofficial results.
While the Awami National Party had on Saturday night announced boycott of the poll, citing that its demand for holding the by-election under the supervision of the army was not accepted by the government, 292 people voted for ANP candidate Pir Riaz Gul. Independent candidates Zeenat Yasmin, Abdul Haque and Masood Alam got 100, 90 and 57 votes, respectively.
The seat had fallen vacant with the killing of MPA Raza Haider belonging to the MQM on Aug 2.
Statistics show that the turnout remained 69 per cent as of the total 133,150 listed voters in Orangi Town, 92,125 cast their ballots at 86 polling stations. While 189 votes were rejected, the total number of valid votes was 91,936.
The polling unexpectedly remained peaceful though supporters of the ANP candidate staged a protest rally around three polling stations (26, 27 and 28). At 1.30pm, they tried to dismantle the MQM election camp outside the limits of a polling station (53), but before the situation could turn ugly, Rangers arrived on the spot and made some arrests.
From the very start, polling in 83 of the total 86 polling stations of the constituency remained a one-sided affair. The MQM had set up its election camp outside the limits of every polling station where its workers were busy issuing slips and guiding voters to the polling stations. Many other areas were wearing a deserted look with nominal vehicular traffic on roads and almost all shops closed due to Sunday.
ANP supporters wearing black armbands converged outside the polling stations (26, 27 and 28), where the ANP commands influence, which discouraged others who wanted to cast their votes. The total electoral strength in these areas was 4,142, including 1,576 female voters.
The administration had made strict security arrangements by deploying contingents of police and Rangers with personnel of intelligence agencies to keep an eye on miscreants in view of the threat of a suicide attack.
At vantage points and sensitive areas like Katti Pahari, Rangers were checking every vehicle after miscreants had opened fire on a minibus. The convoys of Rangers and police were seen staging a flag march in sensitive areas.
During a visit to different polling stations located in the constituency spread over union councils 2, 3, 4, 5 and 9 of Orangi Town after the start of polling, only MQM candidate’s polling agents were found. Despite the fact that five candidates were in the run, not a single polling agent of any other candidate was there. It emerged that the ANP had not nominated any polling agent due to its boycott of the by-poll, while those nominated by independent candidates were not present.
At one stage, Returning Officer Syed Nadeem Haider and Deputy Election Commissioner Karachi Tanveer Zaki were seen rushing towards the polling stations (26, 27 and 28) in Farid Colony where ANP supporters were staging a protest rally against the by-poll.
The returning officer directed the election staff to remain alert and on duty during polling hours till 5pm even if no voter turned out. In reply to a question, Mr Haider told Dawn that in the polling scheme, the election commission ensured that all its staff at all polling stations and booths, located in Pakhtun-dominated areas, should be acquainted with Pushto so as to facilitate the voting.
There was a low turnout of voters at the start of polling because of the last night firing incidents. But it started picking up with the passage of time.
When a Dawn team visited the polling stations (37, 38 and 39) set up at Ibrahim Ali Bhai School in Al-Fatah Colony at around 10am, there were long queues of women voters. By then, 120 of the total 1,079 female voters had cast their votes. Similarly, 483 of the 3,306 men had cast votes.
Likewise, at the polling station (44) set up in a model school in Hanifabad, 284 out of the total 2,241 men had cast votes.
At the polling station (49) in Farooq Society, 415 of the 2,577 men had cast votes by 10.30am. At the polling station (41) in Al-Sadaf Colony, 412 out of the 1,047 female voters had cast votes till 11.30am. At the polling station (40) in Ghazi Nagar, Al-Sadaf Colony, 935 out of the 1,959 men had cast votes.