KARACHI: The polling has begun in the NA-75 Daska by-election contested mainly between PTI and PML-N as both the parties have been campaigning heavily to win the election.
The election in the Sialkot constituency gained national importance after the February 19 by-poll was declared void by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) due to violence.
Following the controversial by-election, the ECP ordered re-election in NA-75. The PTI candidate had challenged the ECP order in the Supreme Court, but the petition was dismissed on April 2 and the apex court ordered to hold the poll on April 10 as per schedule.
PML-N has fielded Nosheen Iftikhar while Ali Asjad Malhi is the PTI candidate for the election.
The Election Commission has made elaborate security arrangements in the constituency to avoid any untoward situation like Feb 19 when two people were killed and six injured after violence ensued between the workers of PTI and PML-N.
The shocking incident of the mysterious disappearance of 23 presiding officers (POs) and their turning up in the office of the district returning officer (DRO) after 13 hours had blemished the credibility of the entire electoral process.
The difference between the votes of Syeda Nosheen Iftikhar and Malhi in the aborted on Feb 19 was not very huge, that suggested that a close fight had taken place.
A total of nearly 0.5 million voters would exercise their right to vote where 360 polling stations have been established out of which 47 have been declared highly sensitive and included in Category A. 14 polling station have been classified as sensitive while 137 polling stations have been included in Category C.
More than 4,000 policemen and 1,048 Rangers personnel have been deployed in the area while 10 teams of the Pakistan Army’s Quick Response Force will also be available to assist the local administration in maintaining the law and order situation.
Because of the short time left before polling after the Supreme Court’s judgment upholding the ECP decision of annulling the by-election, the competing challengers were not able to revive the level of their previous hectic campaign.
The candidates were also very careful so that they were not arraigned by the ECP for any violation of the code of conduct.
The ECP has directed all the POs to have smartphones so that they could be easily accessed and contacted.
Further, they can register any complaint with the DRO or the Punjab election commissioner and promptly transmit the result to the designated authorities.
In the presence of polling agents of the candidates, the POs will fill up Form 45 (the result count) and send its picture to the DRO. In case they face any connectivity glitch, they will physically take the Form 45 to the DRO and explain to him the problem they encountered.
Under the election rules, the result of the count will be prepared in Form-45 and the PO will put a copy of it in packet-16 labelled Result of the Count.
The PO will prepare gender-segregated statements of voters on Form-45 as required on the basis of male and female voters scored out from the electoral rolls in the relevant polling booths.
A triangular fight is likely to take place in the by-election today that will determine whether the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) candidate damages the PML-N more or hurts the nominee of the ruling party.
The TLP representative has so far gone unnoticed and the impact of the votes polled by him in the last by-election has not been adequately discussed publicly. The focus has been on the two main competitors. Although most TLP ticket-holders had not won an NA seat, they had scored a good number of votes in many constituencies in the 2018 general elections.
The votes polled by the TLP representative in NA-75 will not matter much if the margin of victory of one of the two principal aspirants turns out to be large. However, these will have a significant impact in case of a meagre lead.
In the 2018 general elections, the TLP contender had bagged 14,801 votes. But the margin of the win for PML-N’s Syed Iftikharul Hassan was massive as he had secured 101,769 votes compared to PTI’s Ali Asjad Malhi’s tally of 61,727. However, at the time an independent, who was an influential figure in the area, had clinched 57,769 votes.