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Pakistan by-elections: Polling begins on 21 national and provincial seats amid internet curbs

The Pakistan government announced that cellular services would remain temporarily suspended in specific districts of Punjab and Balochistan during the by-elections. It claimed that the request for suspension was made by the election commission.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Islamabad Updated on: April 21, 2024 11:14 IST
Pakistan by elections
Image Source : REUTERS Pakistan elections

Islamabad: Polling began on Sunday on 21 national and provincial seats in the by-elections in Pakistan amidst tight security and suspension of cellular and internet services in specific districts of Punjab and Balochistan to maintain law.

According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, voting began at 8 am and would continue without any break until 5 pm with the provision that voters present within the premises of polling stations would be allowed to cast votes even after the expiry of official timing.

Why is Pakistan conducting by-polls today? 

The general elections were held across the country on February 8 to elect representatives for the national assembly and four provincial assemblies. Polls were however cancelled for one National Assembly seat, two Punjab Assembly seats and one seat of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly. Apart from these, candidates who won more than one seat opted for only one after the elections, leaving the Election Commission of Pakistan to organise by-elections on 21 seats, including five national and 16 provincial assembly seats.

Pakistan suspends internet 

A day earlier, the federal government announced that cellular services would remain temporarily suspended in specific districts of Punjab and Balochistan during the by-elections. The request for suspension was made by the ECP. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) in a statement said the decision was taken to safeguard the integrity and security of the electoral process.

By-elections are being held on two seats of National Assembly each in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and one seat in Sindh while polling began on twelve seats of the Punjab Assembly and two each of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan assemblies.

In Punjab, NA-132 (Kasur) and NA-119 (Lahore) were vacated by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz while Shehbaz also gave up two of his provincial assembly seats in Lahore. The prime minister retained his NA-123 seat in the National Assembly.

Tight security 

Elaborate security measures have been taken by authorities to control the law and order situation with the deployment of regular army troops to maintain peace during the day-long process of by-elections. The ECP had asked the federal government to approve the deployment of Pakistan Army and Civil Armed Forces (CAF) troops to keep peace.

The federal government endorsed the move and announced the use of armed forces units as a quick response force. The Ministry of Interior in its notification issued on Friday said the CAF and Pakistan Army units would be used as second and third tiers of security and they would be available with immediate effect till April 22 in all 21 constituencies. “The exact number of troops, date/period, area and mode of deployment would be worked out by the ECP in consultation with all concerned stakeholders based on ground requirement/ assessment. The date of de-requisitioning of the said deployment will be decided subsequently after mutual consultation among all stakeholders,” the notification said.

Earlier, the Punjab government had also asked the federal government to suspend mobile internet services in the province's 13 districts and tehsils on April 21 to maintain law and order. The move comes despite severe criticism by media and political leaders of a similar step on February 8 when mobile services were suspended in various regions to maintain law and order.

(With inputs from agency)

Also Read: Pakistan: Imran Khan's big claim, says his wife's food laced with 'toilet cleaner'

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