Amid tight security and fear of clashes, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) succeeded in retaining the hotly-contested provincial assembly seat (PK 50 Haripur II) during by-election held on Thursday.
According to unofficial results, PTI candidate Akbar Ayub Khan, the younger brother of former provincial minister Yusuf Ayub Khan and grandson of military dictator Gen Ayub Khan, bagged 25,671 votes, defeating PML-N’s Qazi Asad who stood runner-up with 19,669 votes. Independent candidate Babar Nawaz polled 19,417 votes.
The election was held in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly’s constituency seven months after election tribunal disqualified Yusuf Ayub Khan, the PTI’s provincial minister, for having a fake degree.
There were seven candidates in the contest including Akbar Ayub of PTI, Qazi Asad of PML-N, Tahir Qureshi of PPP, Irum Fatima of ANP, and independent candidates including Babar Nawaz, Sheryar Khan and Shakeel Ahmed. Tough contest was expected between Qazi Asad, Akbar Ayub and Babar Nawaz.
The polling started at scheduled time and lasted till 5.00pm in the evening on all the 116 polling stations of the constituency. Initially the voter turnout remained stuck between 16 and 22 per cent despite there being a local holiday in the district. However it rose to 30 to 33% as the voting exercise drew to a close. An extraordinary activity was witnessed in urban as well as rural polling stations.
Minor altercations and scuffles between the supporters of candidates were reported from localities of Pathan Colony, Mohra Mamdooh, Rehana, Darwesh, Roshan Abad and some other polling stations that led to brief suspension of polling.
Babar Khan accused the provincial government of using official machinery for manoeuvring the election. He said PTI’s provincial president Azam Swati went to different polling stations covertly pressurizing election staff to favour his party’s candidate. However Akbar Ayub rejected the allegation.
In some instances, supporters of candidates were found convincing the voters openly inside the polling station and peeping through the screen while a voter was busy stamping ballot papers.
Assistant Superintendent Police Headquarters Wahid Mehmood termed the overall situation during election peaceful. Over 1,000 personnel of Anti-Terrorism Squad, Elite Force and regular police were deployed for the security of voters, he told The Express Tribune. Additional military troops were on stand-by to assist the police, he said. Sniffer dogs were used to clear the polling stations declared as sensitive.
He said the police also apprehended 16 Afghan nationals on charges of violating a ban on their movement on the election day under section 144.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2014.