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    Wednesday, 25 July 2018

    Millions of voters flock to polls amid tight security,Clashes, violence mar polling at least 2 killed

    Millions of registered voters are flocking to polling stations across the country to cast their vote in Pakistan’s 11th general election. According to DawnNewsTV, the first vote was cast in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Charsadda. Five hours are left until polling concludes.
    Deadly clashes and violence between activists of rival political parties were witnessed in several areas as millions of Pakistanis went to polls on Wednesday amid tight security.
    Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
    A clash erupted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Swabi district between workers of the Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), with one activist of the latter shot dead, and two others injured.
    PTI and ANP workers also exchanged fire in Mardan, leaving some people injured. Police now has taken control of the situation.
    A clash erupted between activists of two independent candidates' groups at a polling station in Batera area of Kohistan. There were no reports, but the polling was halted for the time being.
    Punjab
    One man was shot dead and another was injured in NA-153 when two political groups clashed in Punjab's Khanewal district.
    Several people were injured as workers of the PML-N and PTI came face-to-face in Punjab's Rajanpur district. Police has been deployed in the area to prevent violence.
    DawnNewsTV reported that PTI and PML-N activists also clashed in Shahdara area of Lahore.
    At least one person was injured when PML-N and PTI workers clashes in Rawalpindi's NA-61 constituency.
    A clash was also reported between two political groups in Gujranwala.
    Sindh
    Seven people were injured after clashes between two rival political groups at a women's polling station in Khipro area of Sindh's Sanghar district. Polling was halted at a polling station following the clashes.
    The dispute started between voters of the PPP and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) at a polling station in Yamin Hingorjo after a woman was stopped from casting the vote on technical reasons.
    GDA's Abid Hingorjo who was injured in the clash is said to be in a serious condition and has been shifted to Hyderabad. Other injured include GDA's Nazar Hingorjo and Anwar Hingorjo and PPP's Anwar Marri, Mir Muhammad Marri, Ali Ahmed and Kanndo Marri; they have have been shifted to Khipro taluka hospital.
    Balochistan

    At least two people were injured during an incident of firing a polling station in Balochistan's Naseerabad district, DawnNewsTV reported.


    The battle is set to come down to three parties: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
    While polling stations officially opened for voting at 8am, enthusiastic citizens queued up outside their respective stations as early as 7am.
    However, violence in various areas including Quetta, Larkana, Khuzdar, Swabi, and Kohistan ─ despite the deployment of 800,000 security forces across the country ─ marred the polling process.
    At 371,388, a record number of troops have been deployed at polling stations at the ECP’s request to maintain law and order and take action against harassment.
    July 25 was earlier declared a public holiday by the ECP as an effort to increase voter participation. Polling stations will remain open for voting until 6pm, as per the deadline announced by the ECP.


    Polling agent on duty in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV
    Polling agent on duty in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV

    PML-N Chief Shahbaz Sharif was among the first people today to cast his vote. Speaking to the media outside the polling station in Model Town, Lahore, he requested that people come out and vote for PML-N.
    Other politicians and candidates, including former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, MQM-P's Farooq Sattar, Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) Chairman Mustafa Kamal, PTI Chairman Imran Khan, Bilawal Bhutto and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman have also taken part in the polling process.
    The polling process was temporarily halted at Quetta's Tameer-i-Nau School in the NA-260 constituency, where a suspected suicide blast targeting a police van near the polling stationaround 11am left at least 31 people dead and 20 others injured.
    Also in Balochistan, a grenade attack at a polling station in Koshk village in Khuzdar, left a policeman dead and three others injured, according to AFP.
    In Naseerabad, firing at a polling station left two people injured, DawnNewsTV reported.
    Earlier, in a village in Swabi, a shooting between supporters of two rival political parties left one person dead and two people wounded, according to AP.
    Clashes were also reported in Mardan, Rajanpur, Khipro and Kohistan. Polling was reportedly halted in Kohistan.
    Polling was also halted at a school in Larkana serving as a polling station, where a cracker blast left three people injured.

    INSIDE POLLING STATIONS

    What to expect

    A total of 8,508 polling stations and 244,687 polling booths have been established across the country. As many as 40,632 of the polling stations are combined and there are 23,104 male and 21,322 female polling stations. Around 17,007 polling stations have been declared highly sensitive.

    People line up outside a polling station in Sanghar. — DawnNewsTV
    People line up outside a polling station in Sanghar. — DawnNewsTV

    Step one: Before you go to vote, make sure to obtain your polling station's name and address, block code number and silsila number by texting your CNIC number to 8300. The last three digits of the block code number signify the room you will be voting in at your polling station. The silsila number will be your serial number on the voter lists lying with the polling officers.
    Take your original CNIC, your block code and your silsila number with you when you go vote.
    Step two: Polling officers will check your silsila number on their lists and cross out your name on the list.
    Step three: The assistant presiding officers will sign and stamp (mohr lagana) the back of a green ballot paper (for the NA) and the back of a white ballot paper (for the PA). They will also write down your silsila number and CNIC number on the papers and ask you to put your thumbprint alongside them on each of the papers. Then they will draw a line in ink on your thumb at the base of your nail.
    Step four: Wait for your turn to go into the polling booth. When there, stamp the symbols of your preferred candidate(s) for the NA and provincial assemblies. Make sure the ink on your stamps is dry before you fold the paper up to ensure that the ink does not get onto other symbols, thereby causing your vote to be uncountable.
    The doors of the polling stations will be closed after 6pm. However, voters who are inside the stations when the gates close will be allowed to register their vote.

    Security officials on their way to polling stations. — File
    Security officials on their way to polling stations. — File

    In case security personnel observe any malpractice on election day, they have been asked to first report immediately to ECP-appointed presiding officers (PO) posted at polling stations.
    If the ECP's officers fail to act, the personnel can then approach the officer in-charge of security at the polling station, who may exercise their magisterial powers and punish offenders under Sections 174,176, 177,183 and 194 of the Elections Act, 2017.
    Security officials will be able to arrest without a warrant any individual believed to be impersonating someone else or to be involved in any illegality.
    Individuals can be sentenced to jail, on the spot, for six months (but not longer) if they run afoul of security officials.
    A day earlier, presiding officers collected polling apparatus — including ballot boxes and other voting material — from ECP's distribution centres across Pakistan in the presence of police and army personnel.

    Election staff gather at a distribution centre to receive polling material for elections in Peshawar on Tuesday. ─ AP
    Election staff gather at a distribution centre to receive polling material for elections in Peshawar on Tuesday. ─ AP
    The material was then transported to polling stations amid strict security.
    Voters lists were put up at polling stations as well as the code of conduct for election day.
    In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, police have arranged surveillance vehicles equipped with live video streaming cameras.
    The specially prepared surveillance vehicles will have four cameras each installed on them which will be able to detect a human body from a mile's distance.

    TOTAL CANDIDATES

    Independents outnumber candidates fielded by political parties

    In all, 11,673 candidates are in the run, 3,428 for National Assembly and 8,245 for provincial assembly seats.
    The statistics shared with the media reveal that independent candidates outnumber the candidates fielded by political parties. The number of candidates fielded by parties is 5,661 while the number of independent candidates in the race is 6,012.
    For National Assembly seats, 1,623 candidates are in the race, 1,805 of them fielded by political parties and 1,623 independents. KP is the only province where the number of independent candidates for National Assembly seats is higher than those fielded by parties.
    For National Assembly seats, parties have fielded 820 candidates in Punjab, 441 in Sindh, 335 in KP, 173 in Balochistan and 36 in the federal capital. The number of independent candidates for National Assembly seats includes 714 from Punjab, 373 from Sindh, 386 from KP, 117 from Balochistan and 33 from the federal capital.
    For provincial assembly seats, 8,245 candidates are in the run, 3,856 fielded by parties and 4,389 contesting independently. The number of independent candidates is higher for Punjab and Sindh assemblies than the party ticket holders. As many as 2,256 independents and 1,719 party ticket holders are contesting Punjab Assem­bly seats while 1,186 independents and 993 party candidates are in the run for Sindh Assembly seats. In KP and Balochistan there are 675 and 469 party ticket holders and 470 and 477 independents, respectively.
    Of the 120 parties enlisted with the ECP, 95 are contesting elections and seven of these 95 parties have failed to meet the mandatory requirement of awarding five per cent party tickets for general seats to women
    There are 105,955,409 registered voters, including 59,222,927 male, 46,730,569 female voters besides 1,913 transgender voters, of whom 1,356 are in Punjab alone.
    The data shows that 17,443,094 voters forming over 10 per cent of the total are in the age bracket of 18-25 years. This means they will be exercising their right to franchise for the first time. Another 28,995,231 voters are aged between 26 and 35 years.
    As many as 215,527 of the voters are suffering from physical disabilities, 163,995 of them male and 52,432 female. The ECP has announced the people with disabilities would be able to avail the postal ballot facility and those who choose to go to polling stations should be allowed to vote on priority basis, without making them to wait in the queue. The ECP has trained polling staff to sensitively deal with such voters.
    The total number of voters belonging to religious minorities comes to 3,362,016, which includes 1,864,800 male and 1,497,216 female voters.

    PTI, PML-N confident of victory

    Election campaigns came to a close on Monday night — as directed by the ECP — with PML-N and PTI leadership rounding off their campaigns by predicting victory for themselves.

    (TOP left) PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto addressing a public gathering at Ratodero. (Bottom left) PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif gestures during an election gathering in DG Khan. (Right) PTI chief Imran Khan waves to supporters at a rally in Lahore.—APP / White Star / AP
    (TOP left) PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto addressing a public gathering at Ratodero. (Bottom left) PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif gestures during an election gathering in DG Khan. (Right) PTI chief Imran Khan waves to supporters at a rally in Lahore.—APP / White Star / AP

    On the last day of canvassing, PTI chief Imran Khan addressed four meetings in Lahore, PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif concluded his party’s election campaign by holding a public meeting in Dera Ghazi Khan. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addressed people in Shahdatkot, Garhi Khairi, Jacobabad, Shikarpur and Garhi Yasin before going to the graves of former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
    “Despite all odds PML-N is winning the July 25 polls. We will form the government at the Centre and in Punjab as our victory is certain,” said Sharif addressing the crowd in D.G. Khan. He urged the people to vote for his party to “free Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz from jail”.
    Khan addressed rallies at strategic points in Lahore to prop up his party’s chances. One of his rallies was organised in the constituency from where he himself is a contestant, facing a big challenge from tough-talking PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique. “This is the time to change your destiny. You must come out to vote on July 25. You must bring others out to vote on the day,” he thundered.

    CONTROVERSIAL POLLS

    Questions raised about 'free and fair' elections

    The general election has been criticised by some quarters for not being “free and fair".

    A soldier stands guard as an election official carries election materials at a distribution centre in Islamabad. ─AFP
    A soldier stands guard as an election official carries election materials at a distribution centre in Islamabad. ─

    Questions have been raised over the role of the armed forces in the polling process; restrictions being placed on the media; participation of banned groups; NAB pressure on election candidates as well as the detention of political workers in the run-up to the polls.
    Days ahead of the polls, former Senate chairman and PPP stalwart Raza Rabbani hit out at the ECP’s "criminal silence" over perceived irregularities in the run-up to the polls, warning of "dire consequences" for the government if the elections are "engineered".
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