Islamabad: Heavy presence of police personnel inside polling stations, unlawful campaigning, and suspicious voting patterns marked the by-elections on February 18 in three provincial constituencies of Sindh and Punjab, according to a preliminary observation report issued Tuesday by Free and Fair Election Network FAFEN.
By-elections were held in one Punjab and two Sindh provincial constituencies – PP239 VehariVIII, PS73 Jamshoro–cum-Dadu and PS84 Thatta I. Elections for PP239 were held due to the demise of Sardar Muhammad Khan Khichi.
The Sindh Assembly seats fell vacant following the resignations of Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians PPPP Members of Provincial Assemblies MPAs Murad Ali Shah PS73 and Sadiq Ali Memon PS84, who failed to submit their declarations on dual nationality to the Election Commission of Pakistan ECP.
Security personnel were present at 142 out of 183 observed polling stations 78%, according to reports from trained FAFEN observers. In 141 cases, policemen were seen inside the polling stations.
The presence of policemen was the highest in PP84 59 polling stations, followed by PP239 53 and PS73 29. Under electoral rules, even at sensitive polling stations, security personnel are only authorized to maintain order outside the polling stations. They can only enter polling stations or booths when requested by the Presiding Officer.
Observers saw the workers of contesting candidates campaigning and canvassing in violation of elections laws at one third of the observed 62 polling stations. Most party camps or party workers were seen in PP239 42 polling stations, followed by PS73 11 and PS84 9. In addition, 11 incidents were reported in PP239 of persuading voters within or around polling station to vote in favour of a specific candidate.
One reported case was led by a polling official, another by police/security personnel, one by armed civilians, five by influential persons, and three by candidates or their supporters.
FAFEN’s innovative methodologies for detecting suspicious voting patterns include scrutiny of the pace of voting and details of counterfoils in ballot books. FAFEN observers recorded suspicious voting patterns at 14 polling booths of 10 polling stations, 9 of which were combined and one was a female polling station.
Most of these polling booths were in PS73 9 booths at 5 polling stations, followed by PS84 3 booths at 3 polling stations and PP239 2 booths at 2 polling stations.