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LG election in Islamabad amid tight security

30 November, 2015

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ISLAMABAD: Local government (LG) elections kicked off in the federal capital at 7.00am on Monday and are expected to continue till 5.30pm without any break, Radio Pakistan reported

Residents of Islamabad will go to the polls today to elect local representatives for the first time under the newly-minted Islamabad Local Government Act, 2015.

The last such exercise was held under military rule in 1979 on a non-party basis and was limited to rural areas only.Islamabad, which now has a population of around two million, has been divided into 50 union councils for the polls.

As many as 676,795 registered voters will be electing local councillors and UC chairpersons and vice-chairpersons, who will go on to sit on the Islamabad Metropoli­tan Corporation (IMC), Dawn Newspaper reported.

According to the ECP, 2,407 candida­tes are taking parts in these elections. There are 972 independents, 506 of PML-N, 479 of PTI, 164 of Jamaat-i-Islami and 81 of the PPP.

The ECP has set up a control room to register voter complains. The control room can be contacted at 051-9210816, 9210817, and 9210818. All government departments, including federal ministries in Islamabad Capital Territory, will close at 2:00pm this afternoon to enable government employees to cast their votes.

The start of voting at certain polling stations was delayed as polling materials reached the stations late. Other reasons reported for the delay in polling are a lack of training provided on how to vote, misprinting of candidate's symbols on ballot papers and provision of dry stamp pads.

Muddasir Rizvi, who leads the election observer group Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen), earlier told Dawn that according to the rules, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should have conducted mock exercises to build voter capacity and, more importantly, ascertain the average amount of time it would take an individual to cast a vote.

"To the best of my knowledge, this was not done. But given the kind of arrangements that the ECP claims to have in place, it shouldn’t take each voter more than four to five minutes to cast their vote," he had said.

Rizvi, who is a seasoned election observer, explained that there will be six presiding officers, who will each issue one ballot paper.

They will make multiple entries on each ballot paper and its counter foil. Each voter will cast six ballot papers, and each ballot requires the presiding officer to record voters’ name, CNIC No., signature, thumb impression. In addition, they will have to sign and stamp both ballot and counterfoil. This means that there are at least nine data points per ballot paper.

The process for each voter requires officers to make around 50 entries on separate ballot papers and counterfoils. As many as 33 teams, comprising police and Rangers personnel, will patrol the city during the LG polls on Monday.

Each team has been assigned an area covering eight to 12 polling stations. About 640 polling stations will be set up in 326 buildings. Around 600 army personnel have been sought by the police, who will be patrolling the city as quick response force teams.

In addition, 18 teams have also constituted under the supervision of an SP and SDPOs concerned. Another team of 10 personnel will be provided to all 22 police stations in the city to maintain law and order.

Each of the 22 police stations will be provided two platoons of the Frontier Constabulary (FC), each comprising 34 personnel.The FC personnel will remain on standby to meet any untoward incident.

Deputy Commissioner Mushtaq Ahmed told reporters that 100 polling stations had been declared sensitive where police and Rangers would be deployed.He said the army can also be called out if there was a need. The DC said polling materials were transported to all the polling stations on Sunday.

"A control room has also been established to deal with any untoward situation and timely communication," he added. Out of the total polling stations, 62 have been put in ‘A’ category (sensitive), 208 in ‘B’ and 56 in the ‘C’ category.

Polling stations were declared sensitive in the light of a report prepared by the police’s Special Branch.Six polling stations each were declared sensitive in Koral, Kohsar and Ramna, five each in Nilor and Industrial Area, four each in Karachi Company, Bhara Kahu, Sihala, Noon and Sabzi Mandi, three in Golra, two each at Tarnol, Aabpara, Khanna and Shahzad Town and one each at Lohi Bher, Secretariat and Banigala.

Police have also been provided with 4,000 SIM cards, which will be linked to the main election control room to monitor police personnel’s activities during the polling. The SIM cards will remain active for three days.

CID Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Amir Niazi told Dawn that the decision to provide the Islamabad police force with special SIM cards was made to monitor their positions and their response times.

The Punjab authorities have also imposed a ban on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, due to the security situation, which will remain in place until December 12.

Flying drones, remote controlled model aircrafts, unmanned aircraft systems, flying cameras, quadcopters, helicons, balloons and aerial media coverage have all been banned by the provincial government until the LG polls in the province have been completed, Dawn Newspaper reported.

Voter trends
A look at voting data from the 2013 general elections reveals that while the turnout is more or less uniform – around 60 per cent – in both rural and urban areas, the number of registered voters is greater in the rural parts.

The mostly-urban constituency of NA-48 saw a voter turnout of 59.6 per cent in 2013, which was slightly less than the turnout in the rural NA-49, where some 64.4 per cent of registered voters turned out.

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