KARACHI/PESHAWAR: In another setback to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf after the last week by-polls, the ruling party in Sunday’s by-polls lost a Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly seat in Peshawar though its candidates were leading on both the National and Sindh Assembly seats in Karachi as counting was under way till late hours.
The three seats, KP-71, PS-111, and NA-247, were vacated by PTI leaders Shah Farman, Imran Ismael and Arif Alvi who were appointed on the key positions of KP and Sindh governors and President, respectively, after the July 25 general elections.
According to unofficial results, ANP candidate Salahuddin won KP-71 seat by defeating his rival Zulfiqar Ahmed, a brother of KP governor, in Peshawar. Mr Salahuddin received 11,224 votes against the runner-up who secured 9,755 votes. This was the second Peshawar seat of the provincial assembly lost by the ruling PTI as in the last week by-elections ANP’s Samar Haroon Bilour had won in PK-78 (Peshawar) constituency by defeating rival PTI candidate.
Voters’ turnout was not encouraging in Peshawar, where it stood at 21 per cent, and Karachi where last week around 16pc voters had turned up to cast their vote. However, overall polling remained peaceful.
Initial unofficial reports coming from the polling stations in NA-247 constituency where counting got completed in the evening suggested that PTI’s Aftab Siddiqui was leading with 32,464 votes while Sadiq Iftikhar of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan was holding to the runner-up position with 14,114 votes. Prominent among other candidates were Qaiser Nizamani of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Arshad Vohra of the Pak Sarzameen Party, Ali Nawab of Sunni Tehreek and seven independent candidates. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal did not contest the NA-247 seat which was vacated by Arif Alvi.
Similarly, in PS-111 constituency PTI’s Shehzad Qureshi was set to win the provincial assembly seat with 11,658 votes while PPP’s Mohammad Fayyaz Pirzada was in the second place with 5,780 votes as counting was under way till filing of this report in the late hours of Sunday.
Just like last week by-elections, polling in NA-247 and PS-111 sparked little activity, with deserted streets in many parts of the two constituencies where Rangers and police officials besides army troops had been deployed to make the whole exercise peaceful.
While there was no report of violence or any untoward incident from any of the constituencies, the display of party badges by polling agents at some polling stations did ignite a controversy.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s Taj Haider, who is in charge of the party’s election cell, said that at many polling stations PTI polling agents wore their party badges. He said verbal complaints were made by the PPP to the returning officer of NA-247, “who allowed entry of our polling agents on polling stations Nos 30 and 31 in Hoor Bai Hajiani School, No5 in Eden Grammar School, and Nos 22, 23, and 24 in G. Allana School”.
“Bringing party badges in polling stations is a gross violation,” said Mr Haider.
Separately, the MQM-P leaders addressing an urgent press conference late Sunday night rejected results of the both constituencies.
Camps of political parties, which had pitted their candidates in the by-elections on NA-247, were put up outside almost every polling station in the neighbourhoods of Defence, Clifton, Bath Island, Saddar, Burnes Road, Kharadar and Ranchhore Line. Flags of PTI, MQM-P, and PPP were ubiquitous in the length and breadth of the areas constituting the constituency, while portraits of candidates and party leaders of Pak Sarzameen Party were also seen in many areas.
Interestingly, camps of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) were also seen in some areas with party flags and banners though none of the dozen contesting candidates belonged to it.
Till afternoon voters’ turnout was miserably poor in the entire constituency. Some areas of Saddar, Zamzama, Delhi Colony, PNT Colony, Gizri and Old City quarters were seen relatively vibrant where voters gathered outside their party camps in the late afternoon. Some polling booths in Defence and Clifton reported voters’ number in double digits. Later reports suggested the turnout relatively improved at the polling stations in the evening.
Some impression suggested TLP’s not contesting in the by-election could affect the turnout more as its candidate came distant second to the PTI’s candidate.
Most areas falling in NA-247, a part of which forms PS-111, have been considered stronghold of PTI since 2013. MQM and PML-N had won it in earlier elections barring Abdus Sattar Afghani of the MMA who had been elected from here in 2002.
As the PPP has pockets of support in the NA-247 constituency, it did not leave the ground uncontested for the PTI or the MQM-P.
In July 25 general elections President Arif Alvi had secured 91,020 votes in NA-247 constituency and comfortably defeated TLP’s Zaman Jafri who bagged 24,680 votes while MQM-P’s Farooq Sattar could get 24,146 votes.
Previously, Karachi’s South district had three NA seats. NA-247 was created this year as a result of fresh delimitation of constituencies for the general elections after amalgamating former NA-249 (Kharadar, Ranchhore Line, Old City areas) and NA-250 (Defence-Clifton, Burnes Road) constituencies.
According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, there were a total of 546,451 voters in the constituency.