LAHORE (INN) – Voting is underway on Sunday for by-elections in 20 constituencies of Punjab and will continue till 5 pm. Rangers and FC personnel have been deployed by the authorities in these constituencies to maintain law and order situation.
While the Pakistan Army personnel are on duty at sensitive polling stations, returning and presiding officers have been assigned the powers of magistrates.
It is pertinent to mention that the 20 seats fell vacant after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) “de-seated” 25 PTI dissident lawmakers on May 23 for voting against PML-N’s Hamza Shahbaz in the Punjab chief minister’s election. Which included five lawmakers elected on reserved seats for women and minorities.
No interference in polling process to be tolerated: CEC
The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja said that no interference in polling process will be tolerated.
According to details, Chief Election Commissioner visited central control room set up to monitor crucial by-elections being held in 20 constituencies of Punjab.
The CEC further warned violation of law and unrest will not be allowed under any circumstances.
Earlier, he appealed to the voters to keenly participate in the election process and cast their vote for their favorite candidates in by-elections of the Punjab Assembly.
He said that with the active participation of voters, the democracy will further flourish and the country will get stability and more strength.
He directed the law enforcement agencies to ensure the rule of law and peace during the election process without any discrimination.
Interior Minister says security on high alert in all constituencies
Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that security in all the constituencies, where by-election is taking place is on high alert to ensure law and order on the polling-day.
In a statement, he said civil armed forces have been deployed in all the constituencies on the request of the Election Commission of Pakistan.
The Minister said additional troops of the security forces have been deployed in sensitive electorates. Besides Rangers and Frontier Constabulary, military troops have been deputed as Quick Response Force.
He said a Monitoring Cell has been established at the Ministry of Interior to ensure continuous surveillance of the security situation during the by-elections, adding that the Monitoring Cell has been linked with the provincial governments of Sindh and Punjab as well as with the headquarters of the civil armed forces.
Rana Sanaullah said keeping firearms and their exhibition in all the constituencies is totally prohibited.
Clashes erupt between PTI, PML-N workers
Incidents of clashes between workers of opposition parties have been reported.
One such incident took place in constituency PP 158 Dharmapura area of Lahore, where a fight broke out over entry into the polling station.
According to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers, they are being prevented from entering the polling station.
While a clash also erupted between voters of PTI and PML-N in PP-168 constituency of Lahore. The voters’ complaint that they are facing difficulty in casting votes in stations 50 and 51.
PTI voters alleged that PML-N has posted it’s men inside the polling station.
On being informed about the incident, candidate PP 168 Asad Khokhar reached the spot himself.
He said that PTI is paying Rs. 2000 per vote but the voters are still casting votes for PML-N, therefore now PTI workers are making accusations.
Bury politics of hate, division through your vote: PM
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday said that people should think about corruption, incompetence, economic crisis and aiding of mafias during four year rule of Imran Khan while voting for Punjab by-polls.
PM Shehbaz, in a tweet, said that Punjab was a victim of worst governance during the PTI term as masses were deprived of free medicines and students were stripped off their stipends while hefty bribes were taken for positions and transfers in public departments.
What PTI did with Punjab is nothing less than insult for the residents of the province, the premier added.
PM Shehbaz said that people should burry politics of hate, unrest and division through power of their vote. Cast your vote for progress, development and bright future of the coming generations, he urged.
PTI competing against foreign conspiracy, ECP: Hammad Azhar
PTI leader Hammad Azhar completely excluded PML-N from the equation explaining that PTI is competing against foreign conspiracy and ECP, while PML-N has no existence.
Talking to the media in Lahore, former Federal Minister Hammad Azhar showcased much confidence in PTI’s victory. He said members of the provincial assembly are leaving the government and coming to the opposition.
Meanwhile, PTI leader Usman Dar visited constituency PP 168 of Lahore. He hoped that the polling process would continue peacefully.
“The wickets of PML-N have started falling, four to five more resignations are coming,” said Usman Dar.
Furthermore, PTI leader Shahbaz Gul accused the opponents of casting fake votes in Muzaffargarh.
He said that fake votes are being cast in two constituencies of Muzaffargarh and PTI’s polling agents were removed from polling stations 44 and 46 in PP-272.
“The government should refrain from rigging. Fake rulers will be decisively defeated,” he added.
Police seize weapons, arrest three in Sheikhupura
Police have seized latest weapons and arrested three suspects in Sheikhupura during polling for crucial Punjab Assembly seats.
According to DPO Faisal Mukhtar, police personnel stopped a suspicious car and upon checking latest weapons were found in the vehicle.
Police arrested the three suspects and warned that violation of law on polling day will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
By-elections will be held in 20 constituencies of Punjab Assembly including PP-7 Rawalpindi, PP-83 Khushab, PP-90 Bhakkar, PP-97 Faisalabad; PP-125, PP-127 Jhang, PP-140 Sheikhupura,PP-158, 167,168,170 Lahore;PP-167, Lahore, PP-202 Sahiwa,; PP-217 Multan, PP-224 Lodhran, PP-228 Lodhran, PP-237 Bahawalnagar, PP-272,273 Muzaffargarh,PP-282 Layyah and PP-288 Dera Ghazi Khan.
Political pundits are expecting a tough contest between PML-N and PTI in the by-polls as a majority of the 20 defecting PTI MPAs have hitched their wagons to the PML-N.
The PTI and the PML-N have around the same number of seats in the Punjab Assembly, but if either of the parties takes a major lead in the by-polls, it can form the next government easily as the elections for the chief minister are also slated for July 22.
The ECP has completed preparations for the by-polls and a total of 4.57 million registered voters, including 2.46 million women, are eligible to vote in the by-polls.
A total of 3140 polling stations, including 731 male, 700 female and 1700 combined polling stations have been established across the 20 constituencies.
A total of 9,562 polling booths have been set up for the by-polls. The ECP has declared 1204 polling stations sensitive and 696 highly sensitive.
Polling stations from Lahore and Multan have also been declared sensitive.
Provincial Election Commissioner Saeed Gul has said that the Election Commission is completely neutral and there is no truth in the allegations, they are working according to the Constitution and the law.
Punjab Assembly number game
The Punjab Assembly has a total of 371 members, of which 20 seats are vacant at the moment, bringing the total number of MPAs in the Punjab Assembly down to 351.
The PML-N has 163 members. On the other side is the Opposition, therefore the PTI, which is 163 MPAs strong at the moment.
In the house, there are five independents, of which Chaudhry Nisar, the former interior minister, is unlikely to vote. While the PPP has 7 MPAs, PML-Q has 10, and the Rah-e-Haq party has one.
As per the rules of the Punjab Assembly, the chief minister is elected with a simple majority, therefore 186 votes out of the 371-seat assembly.