Local government elections in Faisalabad on Saturday were marred by hooliganism and altercations over procedures, electoral rolls and election symbols among candidates and their supporters. At least eight people, including two policemen, were injured in scuffles in front of polling stations. Police resorted to baton charge to break up rowdy crowds in at least 11 polling stations.
At most stations, polling started at 7.30am. Candidates and their supporters were seen transporting voters on wagons, cars, rickshaws and buses. Tempers were short at some polling stations and arguments broke out when election staff arrived late.
A spokesman of the DCO’s control room told newsmen that polling had concluded without a hitch. He said the administration asked police to restore order at 11 polling stations where polling was disrupted briefly by altercations between rival candidates and their supporters.
Polling in Union Council-111, Ward 6, of the Faisalabad Municipal Corporation was postponed when Muhammad Iqbal, candidate for the general councillor seat, pointed out that his symbol, a dressing table, had not been printed on the ballot. The presiding officer found six bundles of ballot papers without the symbol.
Talking to newsmen, Iqbal said he was an independent candidate. “It was a clever attempt to defeat me,” he said. “But it did not work.”
Four people were injured in clashes in UC-135 and UC-145 between supporters of rival candidates. Polling in these UCs was suspended for more than an hour as a result.
UC-135 comprises a large part of Ghulam Muhammadabad (of the Faisalabad Municipal Corporation) where a panel supported by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is pitted against a PTI panel. In UC-145 a PTI panel led by Mian Khalid Mehmood and Fazalur Rehman is up against PML-N Mian Qasim Farooq and Anjum Azeem as well as three independents.
Polling in Union Council-2 of Faisalabad Municipal Corporation was suspended due to a scuffle between PTI and PML-N candidates’ supporters.
An argument broke out between party supporters at their camps near Government MC Higher Secondary School in Model Town. Later, a fist fight ensued. Polling resumed half an hour later when police broke up the fight.
Two policemen were injured in scuffles in Union Council-133 Dijkot. Polling was disrupted when two groups resorted to shooting near a polling station.
Police claimed to have arrested three suspects from a polling station set up in Jhang Bazaar. Police said weapons had been seized from them.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2015.