HRCP—which observed the local bodies elections in selected districts in both provinces—said in a statement released to the media: HRCP welcomes the completion of local government elections in all provinces with polling in twelve districts of Punjab and Karachi on Saturday. The overall voters’ turnout appeared to be around 50 percent.
“As had been the case in previous phases of local government elections in Punjab and Sindh, in this final phase of polls in the two provinces also, incidents of violence, attacks on polling stations and attempts to snatch ballot boxes and ballot papers were reported. At least one person died in election-related violence in Rawalpindi and injuries to several others in clashes between rival camps and in firing were reported.”
In the final phase, HRCP election observers noted some instances of mismanagement on the part of the polling staff and more generally on the part of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). There were complaints of stamping and stuffing of ballot papers at some polling stations in both provinces.
In several places, the observers noted printing of inaccurate election symbols on ballot papers, lack of polling material and delayed start in voting. In a number of constituencies, citizens protested over what they called shifting of their votes to places other than the union councils where they resided.
“Candidates and voters complained about slow polling process in a number of places and blamed that on what they called improper training of the polling staff, while here were complaints about locations of some polling stations and about others not having proper polling booths,” stated the commission.
“Difficulties and some hurdles in women casting their votes in some places in south Punjab came to light, although organised agreements among candidates and parties as had been reported in at least one earlier phase of the local government elections were not reported.”
“In the six districts of Sindh, all in Karachi, that went to polls on Saturday with more than seven million registered voters, there were some incidents of violence and almost all the contesting parties and independent candidates had some complaints regarding mismanagement on the part of election staff and the administration,” the HRCP said.
“With the completion of the LG elections, HRCP hopes and expects that the ECP, the participating political parties and the administration, including those responsible for maintaining law and order, will look into the shortcomings witnessed in all the phases of polling, particularly the last phase,” read the statement.
The HRCP also called upon the provincial governments to take a serious look at the need to empower the local governments emerging after the elections, particularly with a view to devolve power to the grassroots level.