‘Violence, abysmal turnout overshadow generally-compliant voting,’ says FAFEN on NA-240 by-polls

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The photo collage shows violence and political activities taking place during the NA-240 by-election in Karachis Korangi and Landhi areas, on June 16, 2022. — Photos by Zia ur Rehman
The photo collage shows violence and political activities taking place during the NA-240 by-election in Karachi's Korangi and Landhi areas, on June 16, 2022. — Photos by Zia ur Rehman

  • FAFEN reports several violations of ECP code in NA-240 by-polls.
  • However, it also notes that polling process largely remained orderly.
  • A person was killed during polling; PSP leader's car was shot at.

ISLAMABAD: Election on a working day deterred a majority of voters from casting their ballots in NA-240 by-polls that largely remained orderly, but was overshadowed by two high-profile incidents of violence, according to the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN).

MQM-P emerged victorious in the NA-240 by-elections with a close margin of 65 votes against rival TLP. MQM-P's candidate Mohammad Abubakar secured 10,683 votes, while TLP’s candidate Shahzada Shahbaz ended up second as he bagged 10,618 votes.

In a statement, FAFEN said the presence of party camps in close vicinity of polling stations was one of the most persistent and prominent violations of the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Contesting Candidates.

“Supporters of rival candidates had set up camps around 88% of the observed polling stations,” FAFEN said, with its observers reporting the presence of armed persons at 22% of these camps.

Read more: Karachi police file multiple cases after violence-marred NA-240 by-election

It added that while these camps are generally set up by candidates to facilitate their voters in checking their serial numbers on electoral rolls, they are also the primary triggers of violence particularly in hotly contested neighbourhoods.

One such clash, according to the statement, was witnessed between rival parties in NA-240 outside polling station No.52, which led to the killing of one person.

Before noon, an incident of firing on the car of PSP leader Anees Qaimkhani in the Landhi area, repeatedly covered by the media, may have created a sense of fear in the constituency discouraging potential voters to go out and vote, FAFEN said.

Read more: PSP leader Anis Kaimkhani’s car shot at during NA 240 by-polls

In addition to this, FAFEN said the by-election being conducted on a working day led to a turnout that remained the lowest during any of the by-elections held since the General Election (GE) 2018.

Inhabited by mostly workers employed in surrounding industrial areas, the constituency registered an abysmal 8.38% voter turnout as compared to 37.38% in GE-2018.

According to Form-47 (Provisional Consolidated Statement of Results of The Count), only 44,388 — 31,677 men and 12,711 women — of a total of 529,855 registered voters — 294,385 men and 235,470 women –— exercised their right to vote on June 16.

As many as 440 ballots were excluded from the count, while the margin of victory between winner and runner-up was merely 64 votes.

Read more: ECP to issue notice to PSP chief Mustafa Kamal over violence in NA-240 by-polls

FAFEN observers reported that the voting process remained largely compliant with the procedure provided in the Elections Act 2017, the Elections Rules 2017, and the ECP’s instructional handbooks.

However, they reported some procedural irregularities at polling stations such as setting up of party camps outside the polling stations, missing or improperly placed secrecy screens at polling booths, and skipping out necessary voter verification steps — indicating the need for greater investments in training as well as increased scrutiny of officials before their selection for election duties.

The by-election was compelled due to the death of Iqbal Muhammad Ali Khan, who had won this constituency on MQM-P’s ticket by securing 61,165 (34%) of the polled votes during GE-2018, while the TLP’s Muhammad Asif was the runner-up bagging 30,535 (17%) of the polled votes.

Seven political parties — including MQM-P, TLP, GDA, Mohajir Qaumi Movement, Pakistan Muslim League (PML), PSP, and PPP fielded their candidates for this year’s by-election, while 18 candidates contested independently.

Watch: Presiding officer caught stealing ballot papers; taken into custody

The report, according to FAFEN, is based on the observation of 247 polling booths at 67 polling stations spread across the constituency by a total of 18 non-partisan, trained, and duly accredited observers — eight men and 10 women. This includes the observation of the counting process at 13 polling stations.