The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is likely to challenge the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the capital a second time around as voters in Islamabad’s NA-48 head to the by-polls on Thursday.
In the May 11 general elections, PTI candidate Javed Hashmi had upset PML-N’s Anjum Aqeel Khan, who was on a re-election bid, by a margin of around 21,000 votes. Hashmi vacated the seat in favour of one from his native Multan.
PTI’s Asad Umar is expected to go head-to-head with PML-N’s Ashraf Gujjar in the August 22 by-election. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) decided to test Faisal Sakhi Butt’s mettle again. Butt had finished in fourth place with 9,178 votes in the general elections. Third-placed Mian Aslam, of Jamaat-e Islami, withdrew from the by-election race.
The Jamiat Ulema-e Islam, Pakistan Peoples Party-Shaheed Bhutto, Pakistan Freedom Party and Pakistan Justice Party have also fielded candidates.
However, a majority of the candidates — 15, to be precise — are independents. However, J Salik, who received 5,038 votes from NA-48 voters on May 11, the highest for an independent candidate in Islamabad’s two constituencies, is not contesting the by-polls.
The capital’s mostly urban NA-48 constituency has a total of 293,525 registered voters, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Around 59.5 per cent of those voters had showed up at the polling stations to pick their elected representative on Election Day.
The turnout is not expected to match levels reached during the general elections, indicated by a mostly unenthusiastic campaign period.
PTI is banking on votes from the youth and women, which helped its candidate to victory in NA-48 around three months ago. Around 47 per cent of the constituency’s total voters are female.
The ECP has announced that Thursday will be a half-day for all Federal Government offices in the entire Islamabad district — except those of the District Administration including the police department — to facilitate government servants in casting their ballots.
Islamabad Police will deploy 2,234 police personnel outside polling stations in NA-48 in Islamabad. Sixteen Rangers Quick Response Force (QRF) teams have also been constituted for polling day security duties.
Around 100 traffic cops have been assigned special duties for the by-polls.
Under the security plan, three superintendents of police, 11 assistant and deputy superintendents of police, 24 inspectors and 87 subordinates will monitor security arrangements outside polling stations.
Of the 260 polling stations, the District Election Commissioner has labelled three as highly sensitive and 35 as sensitive. The ECP has called for army deployment at highly sensitive polling stations and outside sensitive polling stations.
Islamabad’s security situation has been in the eye of the storm since the beginning of August.
The capital was put on high alert before Eid due to a potential terrorist threat. On Eid day, a suicide bomber entered a Shia mosque on the capital’s outskirts, but his suicide vest fortunately malfunctioned.
On August 15, a gunman drew the capital’s police into a five-hour long standoff just two kilometres away from the red zone.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2013.