The violence factor in polls

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The violence factor is becoming more visible and stronger on elections days in our country during each and every polls, which is not a good omen.  Whether it is the General Elections or the Local Bodies polls, or the voting for by-elections, violence is becoming dominant at every level. Exchange of hot words, minor skirmishes and scuffles do occur at majority of polling stations on elections day, but grave incidents of firing at each other and beating with heavy and blunt instruments which result in taking tolls on lives of the opponents are also becoming a common occurrence which needs to be stopped at all costs. The Thursday violence act in Karachi bypolls involving the MQM-P, PSP and Tehrik-e-Labaik workers in Karachi by-polls for NA 240 is the recent case in point. The leadership of all these parties have accused each other of using pressure tactics, batons and arms to influence upon the results.

As reported, it started with war of words, which tuned into small scuffles and then suddenly escalated to a level that it went beyond control within matters of minutes and took one life besides injuring around a dozen other persons belonging to different political outfits.

JPMC sources said that some of the injured were brought with serious gun-shots and torture marks. Though all the three parties involved in this tragic incident are pointing fingers at each other but the fact remains that we as people have become extremely short-tempered, intolerant and impatient and do not think of consequences when jumping into small-scale skirmishes that took an ugly turn of a whole-scale violence within matter of matter of minutes and result in a sort of bigger causality as was seen on Thursday in Korangi, where the political activists did not refrain from even firing at opponents under the spell of anger and took a precious life of  Saifuddin Kaleem.

Most of the injured persons were  youth up to 30 years of age and were reported to have brought to the hospital with bullet-injuries or severe injuries  caused due to hitting each other with heavy, hard and blunt objects. Such incidents are a bad omen for the City of Lights which has come to normalcy after remaining in grip of violence for decades.  The Local Bodies elections are not far off in the city; the situation can further be exploited by the workers of political parties and can mar the peace that is prevailing in the city if preventive measures were not ensured.

The last year LG polls in KP province are an example where scores of persons were shot dead and injured on election days during eruption of violence at various polling stations in December last year, The severity of violence in KP polls can be gauged from the fact that in February this year, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had to  disqualify provincial Minister Shah Mohammad Khan creating law and order situation during the local government elections in KP province.

He was disqualified from holding any public office for as many as five years for inciting people to attack on polling stations that resulted in extreme violence in the Bannu polling stations.

Not only this, his son Mamoon Rashid was  also barred from contesting poll as candidate in the LG polls by the Election Commission of Pakistan till finalisation of criminal proceedings against him.

The decision came on the heel of a hearing of serious violence case in elections regarding the harassing the polling stations staff, attacks on polling stations, kidnapping and issuing threats to opponents and even forcibly taking and snatching ballot boxes and other polls material. And  it did not end here as in April this year, Violence claimed two more lives in the second phase of LG polls in KP’s Hazara division. The South Waziristan tribal district also witnessed severe violence as armed men were reported to be entering the polling stations and kidnapping the staff members and police guards.

Not only the LG polls were marred by viiolence, the 2018 general elections also witnessed large scale violence incidents i.e. grenade attacks on police stations besides the incidents of firing and use of blunt instruments that resulted in killings of scores of persons.

The purpose to say that time has come to form a compressive strategy to halt such violent acts as the execution of the second phase of the polls by the ECP for the municipal corporations in Karachi and Hyderabad, inviting nomination papers from candidates is in full swing. The printing of millions of ballot papers is also  in progress, with the final list scheduled to available on June 28 while the elections will take place on July 24.

Right now a war of words is going between the leadership of MQM-P, the PSP with both alleging each other of violence, barging into polling stations and beating up their polling staff.

The authorities should come forward with fresh strategies to eliminate the element of violence from polls so that the law and order situation is under control. It is good to see that the Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has taken notice of the violence and has also directed the police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon to not allow anyone to create law and order situation in the city.

One would agree with the CM Shah, who was quoted as saying that environment during election should be maintained peaceful for fair results, urging the stakeholder parties to be tolerant to maintain peace by keeping their sentiments in control.