The Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz have expressed opposing views on whether the April 29 by-poll in the NA-249 constituency should be postponed.
In a letter to the Election Commission of Pakistan, the Sindh government has requested postponement of the NA-249 by-election until the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic subsides. The government has said most of the cities in Pakistan are reporting a high ratio of positive cases and fatalities due to the virus.
“The [Covid-19 infection] cases in Karachi and Hyderabad have started rising. The daily situation reports of last week show a remarkable increase in positivity percentage rising from three per cent to three per cent,” says the letter. “The electoral campaign, gatherings, corner meetings and processions will definitely aggravate the situation.”
In order to avoid any mishap or the worst situation, the provincial government has called for putting off the by-poll. On the other hand, the PML-N has also sent a letter to the ECP, urging it to not accept the Sindh government’s request to postpone the by-poll. “The PPP, being a ruling party in the province, has realised its defeat in the by-poll in the constituency and has therefore been trying to make efforts to delay the poll,” said Miftah Ismail, the PML-N’s provincial secretary-general and its candidate for the by-election.
In the meantime, the PPP will “influence the voters in the constituency by announcing and undertaking development work, such as laying water and sewerage lines and road carpeting” in the various areas in the constituency, says the PML-N.
Ismail says in the letter that the ECP has turned a blind eye to all such complaints made by various candidates and political parties contesting the by-poll. He says the Sindh government has painted an unrealistic picture of the Covid-19 situation in Karachi, as the situation in the province was very much under control as compared to other parts of the country.
“Other contesting candidates, including the PML-N, have already spent a significant amount of money in their election campaigns, and now any change of poll days or its deferment shall cause an irreparable loss and injury.”
The PML-N has said the coronavirus SOPs can be implemented more strictly, but postponement of the by-poll is not the solution. The National Assembly seat comprising areas of Baldia Town fell vacant after the PTI’s Faisal Vawda resigned following his election as a senator last month.
In the 2018 general polls, Vawda had won the constituency by bagging 35,344 votes after defeating the PML-N’s central leader and former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Shahbaz, who polled 34,626 votes.
Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan candidate Mufti Abid Mubarak and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan candidate Aslam Shah had ranked third and fourth after bagging 23,981 and 13,534 votes respectively. The Jamaat-e-Islami’s Syed Ataullah Shah had ranked fifth by securing 10,307 votes, while PPP candidate Qadir Mandokhel polled a mere 7,236 votes and ranked sixth in the competition.