‘...everyone knows who we’re up against’ By AZFAR-UL-ASHFAQUE

KARACHI: “We are not contesting the PTI or JI; everyone knows who we’re up against,” said a Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader when asked why Kanwar Naveed Jameel, the party’s candidate for NA-246 by-election, did not protest when paramilitary soldiers stopped him from entering a Liaquatabad polling station on Thursday morning.

“Naveed bhai did the right thing since we have to control our emotions and not get provoked,” he told Dawn at the MQM’s central camp set up at the Jinnah ground.

The Muttahida leader chose to remain anonymous since he did not want to earn the ire of the powers that be.

It was after 10am when Mr Jameel reached the Government Boys School No 2, commonly known as Peela School, in Liaquatabad No 9 after he received information that polling began late and was stopped without any reason.

Being a candidate, Mr Jameel had every right to enter any polling station to meet his polling agents and to inspect the voting arrangements.

A large number of voters had already converged outside the school when the MQM candidate arrived. He tried to go inside the polling station but Rangers personnel deployed there stopped not only him but also the accompanying media teams. They did not give any reason for refusing entry.

While the voters were charged and shouted slogans against mismanagement, Mr Jameel maintained his cool to avoid direct confrontation with the paramilitary force.

“The election is being held under whose supervision?” he asked, while speaking to the media. “I am a candidate and it is my constitutional right, but even I am not being allowed [in the polling station].”

He also tried to pacify the angry voters and left for another polling station in nearby Bandhani Colony.

His behaviour clearly suggested that the MQM was in no mood to have even the slightest confrontation with anyone, especially the Rangers, at least on the day of polling.

Before coming to Liaquatabad, Mr Jameel visited the polling stations set up in the Sirajuddaula Govt College. He raised some issues with the presiding officers as well as the officer in charge of Rangers there and they addressed his complaints, one of which pertained to expulsion of his polling agents because of amalgamation of polling booths.

At almost every polling station, he heard complaints of slow polling and misbehaviour of the Rangers in the name of security as well as verification of the voters’ computerised national identity cards.

He told the media that the amalgamation of polling booths and change of some polling stations at the eleventh hour were aimed at ensuring a low turnout and to give an impression that the vote bank of the MQM had shrunk.

Meanwhile, men and women lined up outside polling stations in the scorching heat to exercise their right to vote.

At a polling station in Govt Abdul Haq School in Federal B Area, Block 14, a man brought his 90-year-old mother so that she could cast her vote.

A woman, identifying herself as Mrs Alvi, claimed to have come all the way from Dubai only to exercise her right to vote. “My son and his children are busy in their work and school but they asked me to go and cast my vote,” she said, adding that she would return to Dubai on Friday.

There were protests outside several polling stations in the constituency over the slow pace of polling. Many voters complained that the election staff was not properly trained and it was due to them that a person took more than 10 minutes in casting his vote.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2015