Protests and clashes erupted in different parts of Karachi on Wednesday night as political parties demonstrated against the recounting of votes cast in the recently held local government elections.
The second phase of the local government elections was held in 16 districts of Sindh on Sunday. However, major contesting parties — including the ruling PPP — had raised concerns over an unusual delay in the results in Karachi and blamed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for mismanagement.
The ECP took more than 36 hours to announce the results of 236 union committees of Karachi as the opposition PTI and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) accused the provincial administration of “rigging and managing things” in its favour. However, contesting parties remain unsure about their mandate as the electoral watchdog has yet to finalise the results.
On Wednesday, JI workers protested on University Road outside Federal Urdu University. Workers set tyres ablaze and blocked the main artery causing traffic jams.
The protesters claimed that the results of Gulshan Town’s UC-1 and two other union councils in Safoora — that were won by the party’s candidates — were being changed through the recounting exercise.
The party also staged a protest at Malir Halt, causing traffic to pile up on National Highway and Sharea Faisal.
Similarly, PPP and JI workers also clashed outside the Malir deputy commissioner’s (DC) office over the recounting of votes in a UC in Gulshan-i-Hadeed.
The seat was won by a JI candidate and the party claimed that the recount was based on “malafide intentions”.
Later, Malir SSP Irfan Bahadur told media that police had brought the situation under control and dispersed the workers.
However, JI Karachi Spokesperson Sohaib Ahmed said police had baton-charged workers outside the Malir DC office. He claimed the PPP and the Sindh government had resorted to “high-handed tactics” in order to carry out rigging.
“We will continue to protest for the seats which have been snatched from us,” he vowed, asking the Sindh government and the PPP to “accept their mandate”.
Meanwhile, PTI and PPP workers clashed outside the Keamari DC office, pelting either side with stones. The PTI accused the PPP of attacking its workers while the Keamari DC maintained that PTI workers forcibly entered the office and harassed staff.
Keamari DC Mukhtiar Abro, who is also the district returning officer, told Dawn.com that the PTI workers had “encircled” his office.
He alleged that PTI’s Ali Haider Zaidi and others forcibly entered the premises and broke the locks. “The PTI workers ransacked the computer and harassed staff including female returning officers who were busy performing their electoral duty,” he said.
He further said that PTI workers threw stones and broke the windows of several vehicles. He said police took action against the hooliganism and removed the party workers from the DC office.
Abro said a first information report would be lodged against PTI leaders and workers over the incident.
A handout issued by the Keamari police said SSP Fida Hussain Janwari had reached the spot and brought the situation under control.
The statement said district police arrived at the scene with water cannons and other equipment to deal with any emergency situation. It added that the situation was currently under control and all political workers had been dispersed.
Later, the Keamari SSP said that the PTI workers detained in the aftermath of the clash had been released. He said that they were released after assuring police they would end the protest and blockade at Habib Bank Chowrangi in SITE.
Separately, Dunya News Karachi bureau chief Talha Hashmi told Dawn.com that a reporter and a cameraman had sustained injuries during the clash. He said that the two were provided first aid at Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and were later shifted to Aga Khan University.
Zaidi, on the other hand, alleged that he had gone to meet his candidates and talk to the press when PPP “goons prepared with stones and under full protection of Sindh police attacked”.
“Media men and PTI workers sustained injuries,” he said.
Talking to 92 News, Zaidi said PTI workers were camped outside the DC office since Monday, awaiting the official results. He said that he had visited the office to talk to party workers.
“They already had PPP goons stationed there with sticks and stones, and as soon as I was set to begin talking to the media, they started throwing them,” he said.
Zaidi alleged that the hooliganism occurred with “police protection”.
PTI Karachi leader Alamgir Khan alleged that PPP workers entered the DC office and vandalised the place, adding that a party worker was “severely injured” in the violence.
PTI Senator Faisal Javed also strongly condemned the incident, saying that it was an example of “hooliganism at its peak”. He urged the courts to take notice of the incident.
PTI Karachi president Bilal Ghaffar announced a protest for outside the DC office and instructed party workers to reach the site at 8pm. “The PTI will protest against the Sindh government’s use of official machinery in local elections,” he said.
PPP Senator Waqar Mehdi, however, said that electoral staff were busy compiling and consolidating the results of the LG polls when the PTI workers, led by Zaidi, Bilal Ghaffar and others, “resorted to hooliganism and attacked PPP workers who were also present there”.
“The PTI workers also ransacked the offices,” he added. Mehdi said the police had brought the situation under control.
The senator accused the PTI of “creating chaos” in the metropolis as they could “not tolerate their defeat” in the LG polls.
Earlier today, PTI Chairman Imran Khan alleged that “massive foul play” was afoot during the second phase of the Sindh local government elections, adding that such “manipulated” polls would only aggravate polarisation and anarchy in society.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Imran said that recent reports regarding the polls had made it apparent that the PPP had “no commitment to fair and free elections”.
“Instead, it uses force, blackmail, police harassment, money to get votes. Now [it is] also clear why the ECP, its cabal of crooks and their handlers sabotaged electronic voting machines (EVMs),” he added.
The ex-premier said that EVMs ensured transparency and provided results immediately, thereby preventing “rigging and engineering”.
“Right now, results of LG elections which should have come out within a few hours at most were coming out in a staggering delay, some for days, allowing for massive foul play.
“If this is the sort of elections ECP, the state and the Pakistan Democratic Movement want, then the stability that elections are meant to bring will not happen. Instead, such manipulated elections will only cause more agitation, polarisation and anarchy,” he said.
Meanwhile, the ECP took notice of irregularities in six Karachi union councils — three in Orangi Town and one each in Mominabad, Gulshan-i-Iqbal and Manghopir — on the JI’s request.
The ECP fixed their cases for hearing on January 23 (Monday) and issued notices to Sindh Election Commissioner Ejaz Anwar Chauhan, the district returning officers, returning officers, winning candidates and the runner-up candidates of the UCs concerned.
Unofficial results of the LG polls showed them to be a ‘one-sided affair’ as PPP was poised to win most seats in nine districts of Hyderabad division and easily bring its mayor to head the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (HMC) for the first time in recent past.
However, the contesting parties in Karachi remained unsure about their mandate on Tuesday, with an official of the electoral watchdog in Sindh asserting that it might take another day to finalise the results.
JI, which secured 86 seats according to results of Karachi’s all 235 union councils (UCs) announced on Monday, claimed on Tuesday that it had won three more seats.
Similarly, the PPP claimed that its candidate in the union council No. 6 of Chanesar Town had been declared as the winner after a recount. The seat was earlier bagged by JI.
Without denying or confirming these claims, a spokesperson for the provincial election commission said the results were still being finalised, with chances of change in the party position shared on Monday evening.
With its fresh claims, the JI now further grew its position from Monday night’s 86 to 89, bringing the PPP number down to 90 from 93. A JI spokesperson said the party was formally informed by the ECP about the three more UCs — two in the West and one in the East district — after a recount where the PPP had been earlier declared winner “illegally” on Monday night.
Meanwhile, ECP spokeswoman Quratul Ain Fatima said in a statement on Tuesday the accusations over delayed results were also “unfounded and based on ignorance”.
“The Election Commission wants to make it clear that there was no delay in the results of the elections,” she remarked, reminding those hurling the allegations that it took three days to compile the results in the 2015 local government elections.