LARKANA/ LAHORE: Nearly 25 million registered voters will exercise the right to elect their municipal representatives today as voting has started in the first phase of Local Bodies elections in Punjab and Sindh. The first phase polls are being held in 12 districts of Punjab and eight districts of Sindh.
The polling time has also been extended from nine to ten hours as the polling will begin at 7.30am to continue till 5.30pm.
In the run up to polling, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) gave final touches to the arrangements for first the phase of elections. Officials said required election material, including ballot boxes and ballot papers, has been transported to the officials concerned in Sindh and Punjab.
It should be mentioned here that polling for the 2nd phase will be held on 19th of November and for third phase on December 5.
Vote in Punjab
More than 20 million registered voters of 12 districts will use their right to vote for the local bodies elections in Punjab.
The districts of Punjab where polling will be held today are: Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujrat, Chakwal, Bhakkar, Nankana Sahib, Kasur, Pakpattan, Okara, Lodhran, Vehari and Bahawalnagar.
The number of registered voters in Lahore are 4,305,880, Faisalabad 3,944,545, Gujrat 1,726,760, Kasur 1,614,042, Okara 1,507,246, Vehari 1,430,692, Bahawalnagar 1,387,865, Chakwal 1,009,947, Pakpattan 898,144, Lodhran 817,445, Bhakar 765,171 and Nankana Sahib 676,587.
As many as 4,500 candidates will appear for chairman/vice chairman of District Councils whereas a total of 19,213 will contest for General Members of District Council's Union Councils and 5531 candidates will be in the field for General Members of Municipal Committee's Wards.
According to the Punjab Local Government (Amendment) Ordinance 2015, a union council shall have a directly elected chairman and a vice-chairman as joint candidates, and six councillors on general seats- one each from a ward. These members can contest polls either on party tickets or as independent candidates.
The electorates will only vote for the panel of a chairman and one general councillor from their respective ward.
Once elected, the general members will elect two female members, one worker, a youth and a non-Muslim member for their wards.
Vote in Sindh
Polling in Sindh will be held in Sukkur, Khairpur, Ghotki, Larkana, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Kashmore and Qamber districts where nearly 4.6 million people will cast their votes.
There are nearly 10,000 candidates in the arena for municipal seats in Sindh.
Authorities said adequate security arrangements are already in place and this would be further strengthened to avoid any untoward situation.
During today’s exercise, people will elect their representatives at District Council, Union councils, Union Committee, Municipal Corporation and Municipal Committees levels respectively.
Under the current arrangement, there will be a chairperson, vice-chairperson and four general councilors from each union councils (in rural areas) and union committee (in urban areas).
As per new rules for voting under Sindh Local Government (Third Amendment) Bill 2015, people will be directly electing only chairperson, vice-chairperson and four general councilors.
The elected chairperson, vice chairperson and councilors belonging to each of the union council or committee would elect non-Muslim councilor as those contesting against reserved slots for women, youth and laborer.
Provincial government authorities cite the arrangement a prudent measure that would facilitate voters and help avoid unnecessary confusion due to plethora of votes to be caste at a single given time.
Phase I sensitive Polling Stations
Punjab: According to the list of polling stations issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (Punjab office), as many as 3551 polling stations have been declared as highly sensitive in all the 12 districts for the 1st phase of Local Body Polls.
People will use their right to vote at 16266 polling stations out of which 8300 have been declared sensitive while 4415 are normal.
In the provincial capital, not a single polling station is in normal category in all 3269 polling stations while 839 declared highly sensitive and 2430 others have been included in sensitive category.
Sindh: Provincial home department has declared 2,610 polling stations out of a total of 4,010 as sensitive and most sensitive in the eight districts.
According to the ECP data, as many as 1,053 polling stations in upper Sindh are most sensitive while 1,557 others are sensitive.
Punjab: The Punjab government has announced a public holiday today on account of local bodies elections in the district.
According to the spokesman, all educational institutions and the district government offices will remain close on Saturday.
Sindh: Sindh government also announced public holiday in its eight districts going for first phase of the local bodies polls today.
Authorities said that all government and private institutions will remain closed in Khairpur, Sukkur, Ghotki, Larkana, Shikarpur, Qambar Shahdadkot, Jacobabad and Kashmore to facilitate optimum public participation in the exercise.
Check voting details via SMS
According to Election Commission, expiry of CNIC does not invalidate the voters from casting votes.
The ECP has asked the eligible voters of Punjab and Sindh to check their voting and polling station details by sending their Computerized National Identity Card Number (CNIC) on 8300.
According to an official, ECP has started sending a public service message to voters.
The voters have been advised to visit ECP's official website (www.ecp.gov.pk) for seeing the video message of the CEC and documentary 'How to cast Vote'.
Second Phase of Local Bodies Polls
Sindh: Polling for second phase of local government elections will be held in Matiari, Tando Allahyar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Thatta, Sujawal, Badin, Hyderabad, Dadu and Jamshoro on November 19.
Other districts in Sindh to go for polls include Shaheed Benazirabad, Naushehro Feroz, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Umerkot and Tharparkar.
Local bodies polls in six districts, all pertaining to Karachi will be held on December 3, according to an official.
Punjab: Polling for the second phase will be held on November 19 this year in Khanewal, Sahiwal, Toba Tek Singh, Chiniot, Sargodha, Mianwali, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala, Hafizabad, M.B.Din, Attock and Jhelum districts.
The third phase will take place on December 5 in Layyah, Dera Ghazi Khan, Bhawalpur, Rajan Pur, Rahim Yar Khan, Multan, Rawalpindi, Muzaffar Garh, Narowal, Jhang and Khushab. Samaa/APP