By-elections: Polling underway on 21 vacant seats amid suspension of internet, cellular services in Punjab, Balochistan


ISLAMABAD, APR 21: Polling is underway for by-elections on around two dozen National Assembly and provincial assembly seats on Sunday (today) amid suspension of cellular and internet services in specific districts of Punjab and Balochistan to maintain law and order situation during the electoral process.

The voting for the first major by-poll, which are taking place after the February 8 general elections, started at 8am and will continue till 5pm today without any interval.

A day earlier, the federal government announced that cellular services will remain temporarily suspended in specific districts of Punjab and Balochistan during the by-elections on April 21-22.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) issued a statement, saying that the decision has been taken to safeguard the integrity and security of the electoral process.

Army deployed during by-polls
Meanwhile, at the request of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the federal government has approved the deployment of Pakistan Army and Civil Armed Forces (CAF) troops during the polling process.

The government said that it would use the armed forces units as a quick response force.

The notification mentioned that the CAF and Pakistan Army units would be used as second and third tiers of security and they would be available with immediate effect till April 22 in 21 constituencies.

PML-N worker killed amid clashes with PTI
As the polling was taking place, a clash between Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) workers took place in PP-54 in Narowal.

During the incident, a PML-N worker, Muhammad Yousuf, was killed after the opponents hit his dead with a stick during the fight, said the police.

The police said that the worker was taken to hospital where he succumbed to injuries, adding that the polling was stopped in this constituency.

PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal said that PTI cannot win elections through hooliganism. He added that the killers will be brought to justice.

Meanwhile, an argument broke out between workers of both parties in NA-199 constituency of Lahore.

The police said that the clash took place at polling station number 171 of Lahore College, adding that the workers grabbed and dragged each other.

However, the police took the workers to their camps to resolve the matter.

Meanwhile, another clash broke out between SIC and PML-N workers in PP-139 constituency in Sheikhupura. The workers beat each other, injuring three people.

The police said that the fight took place over election camp, adding that they took two people into custody. The polling had stopped briefly due to firing, however, it resumed after a while.

Another incident took place in Rahim Yar Khan during which workers of two political parties clashed and broke windows of cars. The fight happened in PP-266 constituency.

On the other hand, SIC’s candidate Chaudhry Muhammad Mayo for PP-164 constituency, while speaking to Geo News, claimed that the police arrested their worker Chaudhry Shabbir Gujjar and has been taken to a police station.

He alleged that there have been complaints of rigging in the constituency, adding that they have informed the ECP about the matter.

Where are by-polls being held?
The elections are being held on five NA seats, 12 Punjab Assembly seats, two each in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan Assemblies and one in Sindh Assembly.

The NA seats include NA-8 and NA-44 (KP) NA-119 and NA-132 (Punjab) and NA-196 (Sindh). Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has won one seat in the form of NA-207, Nawabshah from where Aseefa Bhutto Zardari has been elected unopposed.

The provincial assembly seats include PK-22 and PK-91 (KP), PB-20 and PB-22 (Balochistan) and PS-80 (Sindh). The Punjab Assembly seats where the by-polls are taking place include PP-32 (Gujrat), PP-36 (Wazirabad), PP-54 (Narowal), PP-93 (Bhakkar), PP-139 (Sheikhupura), PP-147, PP-149, PP-158, PP-164 (Lahore), PP-266 (Rahim Yar Khan) and PP-290 (Dera Ghazi Khan).

The NA-119 (Lahore) was vacated by Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz and PML-N’s Ali Pervez Malik is up against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed SIC’s Shahzad Farooq for the seat.

Moreover, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’s (TLP) candidate Muhammad Zaheer and six independent candidates are also vying for the seat.

Meanwhile, elections are also being held on PP-147 (Lahore), which was vacated by PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz. PML-N’s Malik Riaz, SIC’s Muhammad Madni, Shahrukh Jamal, TLP’s Muhammad Yasin and eight independent candidates are aiming for the slot.

The seat PP-149 (Lahore) was vacated by Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party’s (IPP) Abdul Aleem Khan. IPP’s Shoaib Siddiqui, SIC’s Zeeshan Rashid, TLP’s Muhammad Zaheer and 11 independents are seeking to win the seat.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif vacated NA-132 (Kasur) and two of his provincial assembly seats in Lahore, PP-158 and PP-164, while retaining his NA-123 seat in the National Assembly.

A very tough contest is expected in NA-132 on which SIC’s Muhammad Hussain Dogar is contesting against PML-N’s Malik Rasheed Ahmad Khan, whereas the TLP is also in contest.

PML-N’s Chaudhry Muhammad Nawaz, SIC’s Moonis Elahi, TLP’s Muhammad Munir and 19 independent candidates are vying for the PP-158 seat vacated by PM Shehbaz.

Meanwhile, SIC’s Muhammad Yousuf, PML-N’s Rashid Minhas are eyeing the PP-164 slot.

Meanwhile, in Sindh, voting is taking place on NA-196 (Qamber Shadadkot). This seat was vacated by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

In KP, the polling is taking place on NA-44 (Dera Ismail Khan) seat which was left vacant after Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur retained his provincial assembly seat, PK-113.

By-poll is also being conducted on the NA-8 (Bajaur) seat, the election for the seat was suspended ahead of the February 8 general elections after one of the candidates Rehan Zeb Khan was murdered.