LAHORE/KARACHI: Counting is underway after 10 hours of polling for the first phase of the much-delayed Local Bodies elections in 20 districts of Sindh and Punjab today (Saturday).
According to initial unofficial results Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) is leading in Punjab while Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is ahead in Sindh.
Polling started at 7.30am and continued till 5.30pm without any break. In some polling stations, polling began late as presiding officers were not aware of the notification that polling was to be started at 7.30am.
Over 25 million citizens have expectedly exercised their right to elect local govenment (LG) representatives in 12 districts of Punjab and eight of Sindh. Other districts in the two provinces will go to polls in two phases to follow.
The last LG polls were held during the era of General (r) Pervez Musharraf in 2005.
Public holiday is being observed in the concerned districts of Punjab, following the directions of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
For Lahore, 3,500 polling stations were set up. The designated election officials on Friday handed over material for their respective polling stations, including ballot boxes, lists and ballots under the watchful eye of the Punjab police.
In this first phase, voters will elect chairmen and vice chairmen of the union councils, as well as the members of the district council.
More than 20 million registered voters of 12 districts will use their right to vote for the local bodies elections in Punjab.
The number of registered voters in Lahore are 4,305,880; Faisalabad 3,944,545; Gujrat 1,726,760; Kasur 1,614,042; Okara 1,507,246; Vehari 1,430,692; Bahawalnagar 1,387,865; Chakwal 1,009,947; Pakpattan 898,144; Lodhran 817,445; Bhakar 765,171; and Nankana Sahib 676,587.
Over 40 thousand candidates are in race for various offices of the Union Councils in the first phase of the local bodies’ polls across Punjab.
As many as 4,500 candidates will appear for chairman/vice chairman of District Councils whereas a total of 19,213 will contest for General Members of District Council’s Union Councils and 5531 candidates will be in the field for General Members of Municipal Committee’s Wards.
According to the Punjab Local Government (Amendment) Ordinance 2015, a union council shall have a directly elected chairman and a vice-chairman as joint candidates, and six councillors on general seats- one each from a ward. These members can contest polls either on party tickets or as independent candidates.
The electorates will only vote for the panel of a chairman and one general councillor from their respective ward. Once elected, the general members will elect two female members, one worker, a youth and a non-Muslim member for their wards.
The ruling PPP appeared to be in a strong position in the eight districts of upper Sindh where polling was held.
More than 4.6 million voters in the eight districts voted for over 10,000 candidates vying for 2,333 constituencies falling in various tiers of municipal units.
The districts – Larkana, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Kashmore, Kamber-Shahdadkot, Sukkur, Ghotki and Khairpur – fall within the territorial jurisdiction of Larkana and Sukkur divisions.
With the traditional election symbol of ‘arrow’, PPP candidates are facing rivals belonging to the PML-Functional, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, Jamaat-i-Islami, Sindh United Party (SUP) and an alliance of several parties called the Larkana Awami Ittehad.
Sons of the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khurshid Ahmed Shah, Senator Islamuddin Shaikh, Sindh LG Minister Nasir Shah in Sukkur, and a daughter of Senior Sindh Minister Nisar Khuhro in Larkana have been elected unopposed.
According to the official figures by provincial election commission, a total of 5,193 candidates are in the run for 950 constituencies in Sukkur division. Of them, 1,558 candidates will contest on 392 seats in Sukkur district, 2,664 candidates on 111 seats in Khairpur, and 971 candidates on 447 seats in Ghotki district.
In Larkana division, a total of 4,894 candidates will vie for 1,383 seats. They included 625 candidates for 101 seats in Jacobabad district, 609 candidates for 220 seats in Kashmore, 1,357 candidates for 466 seats in Kamber, 1,363 candidates for 314 seats in Larkana and 940 candidates for 282 seats in Shikarpur.
There are 54 town committees – 28 in Sukkur and 26 in Larkana – in the two divisions. Khairpur district has 20 town committees, the maximum number of town committees in any of the eight districts, while Jacobabad has the least number of town committees that is only three.
Also, there are 222 wards for the 28 town committees of Sukkur division and 163 wards for the 26 town committees of Larkana division.
Each of the eight districts has one district council with 187 union councils in Sukkur division and 239 in Larkana division. In all, there will be 4,031 polling stations including 678 of them being marked as sensitive from a security point of view.
Similarly, there are 26 union committees in the city of Sukkur and 20 union committees in urban Larkana.
Each of the two cities will have a municipal corporation having the elected chairmen of the union committees as its members.
The Sindh government has deployed over 31,000 police officials besides the 80 army troops and 2,219 Rangers personnel for election duty in the eight districts.
The army troops have been deployed at sensitive polling stations in Nara and Kingi areas of Khairpur district only.