ISLAMABAD: Although the by-election for Karachi’s NA-245 constituency was conducted in a peaceful manner, the low turnout of a mere 11.8 per cent eclipsed the otherwise well-organised polling activity, the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) said in its report.

The poll was held on Aug 21, after the seat fell vacant due to the demise of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Dr Aamir Liaquat Hussain.

Fafen, in its report analysing the polling activity, said that the low turnout indicated the candidates’ and political parties’ failure to mobilise most of the voters (88pc) to cast their votes.

The constituency had 515,003 registered voters, for whom, 263 polling stations were established, the reports said, while quoting the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) data.

Fafen said that it had deployed 11 observers on the polling day who reported smooth conduct of the polling with no untoward incident.

The 11.8pc voter turnout was significantly lower than the 37.6pc turnout in the constituency during the 2018 general election. “This voting rate is reflective of the usual trend of low turnout in by-elections. The recent by-election in National Assembly constituencies NA-240 Korangi Karachi-II in June and NA-33 Hangu in April registered eight per cent and 14pc turnouts, respectively.”

Women’s turnout in the by-election was even lower, with only 8.2pc of female voters casting their votes.

It said during 2018 general election, nine political parties and six independent candidates contested for the NA-245 seat. During the recent by-election, candidates from nine political parties along with eight independent candidates contested for the seat. The report said that out of the 17 candidates only one was a woman.

“This demonstrates a trend of low political participation of women in the constituency,” the report noted, adding that the parties should promote active participation of women, not only as voters but also candidates.

According to Fafen’s observers, polling activity at every polling station started at 8:00am.

In comparison to the 2018 general elections, there was a 16.1pc increase in the number of registered voters in this by-election. Consequently, the ECP established 15pc more polling stations in the constituency to accommodate them.

Polling agents were present at as many as eight (72.7 percent) of the observed polling stations. Empty ballot boxes were shown to all the polling agents present prior to the start of polling, and no polling agent raised any objection to the pre-poll proceedings at the observed polling stations, it said.

Meanwhile, the polling process was well organised with adequate security arrangements. There was only one instance of a verbal altercation between voters at one of the observed polling stations.

The report said that the role of security personnel was critical to maintaining peace and ensuring that all voters got equal access regardless of their gender, disabilities, or status, as required in the election law. As per the observation reports, security personnel were deployed at all the observed polling stations and were observed to be giving priority facilitation to persons with disabilities (PWD), senior citizens, transgender persons, pregnant women, and mothers carrying infants. However, wheelchair ramps were observed to be available at only three (7.1pc) of the observed polling stations, hindering equal accessibility for PWDs and even dissuading them where there was no such facility.

However, pointing out the deficiencies, the reports noted that in clear violation of the code of conduct, party camps were set up within 100 metres of polling stations at 24 locations.

Moreover, candidates also provided transportation facilities to the voters at nine of the observed polling stations, the report said.

The process of counting votes at 10 polling was ‘largely compliant’ with the relevant legal and procedural requirements, as per the observers’ findings.

At all the observed polling stations, the report said, the candidates/polling agents present during the process of counting signed the Form-45.

PTI’s candidate won with 29,475 (48.5pc) votes, MQM-P’s candidate was the runner-up with 13,193 (21.7pc) votes, followed by the TLP candidate who secured 9,836 (16.2pc) votes.

The placement followed a similar pattern from the 2018 general election when PTI obtained 34pc, MQM-P obtained 21.2pc, and TLP obtained 12.4pc of the votes.

Talking about the result, Fafen said that despite ‘increasing political friction between the ruling coalition and PTI,’ no objections were raised to the outcome of the election.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2022

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