Complaints, irregularities mar KP local government elections

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PESHAWAR
The local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were marred by irregularities, non-transparencies and delays. Several people were killed and injured after clashes erupted between supporters of different political parties at several polling stations of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In Peshawar’s Tehsil Shah Alam clashes erupted outside woman polling station after supporters of a political party tried to enter the station. Police have also arrested a man from ladies polling station in Pishtakhara area. In Khyber, shots were fired and furniture of polling station was damaged, while a scuffle also erupted between polling agents in Charsadda.
The polls in Tehsil Baka Khel of Bannu were postponed following complaints of rigging. The Election Commission of Pakistan has taken notice of the incident and called a meeting later today to discuss the matter of abduction of polling staff and snatching of ballot papers.
In a video message, watchman of a female polling booth set up at Mir Sharop Khan School of Tehsil Baka Khel accused the ruling PTI workers of taking ballot boxes with them. He alleged that Gul Baz Khan, brother of provincial Transporter Minister Shah Muhammad, along with his guards and police officials barged into the polling booth and held the female staff hostage. Then he took away ballot boxes.
The school watchman further alleged that the PTI workers also took away seals, stamps and ballot papers with them. The owner of the school also alleged that Gul Baz Khan was involved in the abduction and snatching of ballot papers and other election material.
However, Transport Minister Shah Muhammad rubbished the accusations saying his opponents were levelling false allegations of abduction against his brother out of fear of their impending defeat.
The minister said that the polling staff of GMS Mehmood Jani Khel was missing all night then they suddenly appeared in the morning. In another incident of non-transparency in the Peshawar Local Government elections, a presiding officer was arrested along with her husband for indulging in rigging.
The Election Commission took notice of the incident and suspended the entire polling staff deputed there. It seems that the Election Commission of Pakistan has to face Daska-like situation during the KP local body polls.
Following the reports of abduction of polling staff and snatching of ballot papers on the eve of KP LG polls, the Chief Election Commissioner and other ECP authorities tried to contact the KP chief secretary, IG police and other concerned persons till late at night but all in vain.
The ECP will hold a meeting under the chair of Chief Election Commissioner to discuss the grievous situation during the polls in the province. The meeting would review the reports forwarded by the Bannu district commissioner and district police officer.
Due to a faux paus by the Election Commission of Pakistan, the election symbol of candidate Behram Khan who is contesting village council polls in Mardan has been allotted to another candidate.
Behram rued that had been campaigning for almost one month and at the last moment, the ECP gave him a different election symbol. The wrongdoings during the LG polls were reported from the polling stations set up in Peshawar.
According to reports, policemen were present inside the Pashtakhra polling stations and Government Girls High School, Mashogagar. They are carrying ballot boxes with them. They have shut the doors of the booths and are instructing the voters, the reports pointed out. However, the Election Commission said that police were not allowed to enter the polling booth.
Another scuffle between candidates in Dera Ismail Khan injured one person; however, police have arrested the suspects. In Buner, workers of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) traded blows and damaged furniture of the polling station. In Kurk, polling was suspended in Faqeer Khel area after two people were shot dead and four others were injured.
Polling was also suspended in a polling station of Jamrud after two candidates of general councilor clashed. Police fired aerial shots to disperse the crowd. It merits mention that polling for the first phase of local government elections in 17 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is underway.
Polling began at 8 am and will continue till 5 pm without any break. The 17 districts where elections will be held include Peshawar, Nowshera, Charsadda, Khyber, Mohmand, Mardan, Swabi, Kohat, Karak, Hangu, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Haripur, Buner and Bajaur.
Over 12.668 million registered voters, including 7,015,757 male and 5,653,095 female voters, would decide the fate of 37,752 candidates contesting for different seats, while 4,188 polling stations have been declared sensitive and 2,507 most sensitive.