The polling process for the crucial by-polls kicked off on Sunday with numerous candidates vying for the eight National Assembly seats and three Punjab Assembly seats.
Among the contenders, is former prime minister Imran Khan who is running for seven of the eight seats up for grabs in today’s by-election. A vote he says is “a referendum” on his popularity.
The by-elections are the most recent development in the political bickering that started with Khan’s ouster from the Office of the Prime Minister on April 10 — making him the first prime minister to be thus removed through a parliamentary vote of no-confidence.
Candidates can stand for multiple seats in elections. If they win more than one, they choose which to keep, and a separate vote must later be held for those forfeited.
The by-elections come as the nation grapples with the aftermath of devastating monsoon floods that affected more than 30 million people and left a third of the country under water.
The government wanted to delay the elections for at least the next 90 days as it said that security personnel were busy in flood relief works, while there were also reports of terrorist activities during the polls.
But the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) — despite two letters from the Ministry of Interior — rejected the suggestion of delaying the by-polls and asked the relevant authorities to beef up the security.
“Security arrangements should be beefed up to conduct peaceful elections […] arrangements should be put in place to maintain law and order,” the ECP said in response to the interior ministry’s last letter.
Since the federal government was busy tackling the deadly floods, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) was not able to campaign up to the level of PTI as Khan went to every by-election-related jalsa for rallying his supporters.
The constituencies where polling is taking place are: NA-22 Mardan-III, NA-24 Charsadda-II, NA-31 Peshawar-V, NA-108 Faisalabad-VIII, NA-118 Nankana Sahib -II, NA 157 Multan-IV, NA-237 Malir-II, NA-239 Korangi, Karachi-I.
The by-poll on NA 45, a tribal area seat, has been postponed over law and order situation.
The lower house seats were vacated after NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had accepted the resignations of PTI MNAs — nine on general seats and two on reserved seats for women.
Moreover, by-elections are also being held on three Punjab Assembly seats — PP-241 Bahawalnagar-V; PP-209 Khanewal-VII, and PP-139 Sheikhupura-V.
ECP finalises arrangements
The ECP finalised all arrangements for holding by-elections in 11 constituencies — eight of the National Assembly and three of the Punjab Assembly Saturday night.
The by-polls are being held in three provinces — Punjab, where three seats each of national and provincial assembly are vacant; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the polling is underway for three NA seats, and Sindh, where candidates are competing for two NA seats.
A total of 101 candidates from different political parties and independents are taking part in the vote: 52 in Punjab, 33 in Sindh and 16 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In Punjab, 1,434 polling stations are established, 979 in KP, and 340 in Karachi.
The polling staff, polling material, ballot papers, and polling bags were delivered to their respective polling stations today with complete security.
The concerned officers in Karachi, Lahore, KP, and Islamabad are monitoring the process of delivery of polling materials from the control room.
Separate special control rooms have been established at central and provincial levels to promptly resolve election-related complaints and hurdles in the conduct of impartial elections.
Meanwhile, chief election commissioner (CEC) has written a letter to Punjab, KP, and Sindh’s chief secretaries, and inspector generals of police to provide comprehensive security to polling staff, candidates, and political parties.