LAHORE: PML-N swept local government elections in 12 Punjab districts while the PPP secured majority of seats in Sindh, according to unofficial results gathered from sources in different political parties. In Punjab, according to unofficial results of 905 union councils, the PML-N won 407 seats of chairmen, vice-chairmen and councilors in 12 districts while independents bagged 346 seats, followed by the PTI and the PPP which grabbed 89 and 38 seats respectively.
In Sindh, PPP was leading by 564 seats in 763 union councils. Independents were elected on 130 seats while PML-F and MQM got 50 and 11 seats respectively till the filing of this report. In Lahore, out of total 274 union councils, PML-N was leading in 210 UCs with 182 seats. Independents got 21, while PTI got seven as counting was still in progress for rest of the union councils. PPP could not grab even a single seat from Lahore. In Faisalabad, independents were ahead of political parties with 76 seats in 145 union councils till the filing of the report. PML-N and the PTI secured 51 and 18 seats respectively.
Out of 105 declared results in Okara district, PML-N won 52 seats, independents got 38 while the PPP and PTI grabbed nine and six seats respectively. In Bkakkar, PML-N got 52, independents 38, PPP 9 and PTI 6 out of 44 declared results. In Bahawalnagar, PML-N got 12, independents 48, PML-Z 9 and PTI 3 out of 69 declared results. In Pakpattan, PML-N won 28, independents 34, PTI 8 and PAT got 1 seat out of 71 declared results. In Chakwal, PML-N got 8, independents 9, PML-Q 7 and PTI 2 out of 26 declared results. In Vehari, PML-N grabbed 29, independents 45, PPP 3 and PTI 10 out 87 declared results.
The polls in Punjab were held amid reports of violent clashes among rival groups and usual allegations of rigging against each other. Though no report of killings was received from anywhere across the province, dozens were hospitalised after getting injured. Polling process remained suspended for hours at some polling stations in different districts and police were called in to disperse warring groups. In Lahore, though tension gripped certain localities, the polling by and large remained peaceful and smooth. Since most of the polling stations in the city were declared sensitive, fear prevailed during the polling. Nonetheless, some incidents of clashes and exchange of hot words between the rival camps were reported from certain localities, especially from the Township area.
Complaints about missing names in the voters’ lists and shifting of votes to the remote areas were heard, but they were not from the members of any specific party. Minor clashes were observed among rivals groups of PML-N in Faisalabad. Its workers also clashed with those of PTI at some polling stations. Some 18 people among two policemen were injured during clashes. It merits mentioning here that more than 33,000 policemen, four companies of Pakistan Army and 300 Rangers were deployed in Faisalabad district to keep peace.
Complaints regarding partial role of polling staff and clashes among rivals were reported from Bahawalnagar where a media person faced the wrath of the ruling party candidate’s supporters in Ward No 42. An assistant presiding officer was allegedly casting votes in favour of the ruling party candidate. As the PTI supporters lodged protest, PML-N activists snatched his camera from a news channel reporter when he tried to cover the scene. In Union Council 6 of Gujrat, polling remained suspended for some time following the death of the presiding officer of cardiac arrest. Voting was underway at a polling station of Ward No 1 when Presiding Officer Muhammad Sharif suffered a heart attack and breathed his last on the spot. At least 16 persons were reported injured in Kasur as rivals clashed over trivial issues. The scuffles also interrupted the polling at various polling stations intermittently.
A polling station in Ward No 20, Kasur, turned into a battlefield when the supporters of the ruling party and independent candidates clashed with each other. At least five persons sustained multiple injuries due to free use of knives and aerial firing. The injured were believed to be the supporters of PML-N candidate Hafiz Abdur Rasheed. Two of them were later referred to a Lahore hospital due to their critical condition. However, the police reached the scene and brought the situation under control.
The police also arrested three persons on the charges of aerial firing and knife attacks. In Ward No 7, Kasur, the supporters of PML-N candidate Amjad Ali Tarar and independent Chaudhry Imtiaz Ali used sticks, clubs and bricks during a clash in which independent candidate Chaudhry Imtiaz Ali was injured. In Pakpattan, three persons were injured when two groups clashed at a polling station in Chak 36/SP. The police arrested a candidate who was in the run for the slot of chairman. PTI supporters staged protest at a polling station in the Colony area as they accused the presiding officer of supporting PML-N.
Scuffles and armed clashes between political groups left six persons injured in Vehari where polling at some stations remained suspended. This happened despite special security arrangements made to ensure conduct of the polls in a peaceful manner. Long queues of people were witnessed at a number of polling stations.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan held their local elections months ago. Imran Khan’s PTI won in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N and its coalition partners won in the sparsely populated province of Balochistan. Observers are closely watching the polls in Punjab, country’s richest and most populous province and the power base of Nawaz Sharif, who swept to power in a landslide elections in 2013. “PML-N has the upper hand in Punjab but it will be strongly challenged by PTI,” said political analyst Wajahat Masood, referring to Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf.