Unofficial results on Thursday of the by-election for the seat rendered vacant after former Azad Jammu and Kashmir premier Ilyas Tanveer’s disqualification in April showed the PPP had won the contest.
According to unofficial results issued by the returning officer, PPP’s Sardar Zia Qamar bagged 25,755 votes while PML-N’s Mushtaq Ahmed Minhas emerged as the first runner-up after securing 20,485 votes.
Minhas, a journalist turned politician who had clinched victory in his maiden election in AJK in 2016, conceded defeat, and was seen in a picture embracing and greeting Qamar following the announcement of unofficial results.
Later, Qamar said while speaking to Dawn.com over the phone that “this victory is a reflection of people’s trust in a genuine and humble political worker who prefers to stay among them through thick and thin”.
PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari congratulated Qamar on Twitter.
“Thank you Bagh, AJK for placing your faith in the PPP. After Multan and Karachi, the Bagh by-election has cemented our winning streak. Congratulations to Sardar Zia Qamar, former PYO president and current chief organiser AJK PPP on his victory.
“Bagh hosted our protest against G20 meeting in occupied Kashmir last month. Today’s victory sends a strong message on both sides of the border,” he tweeted.
The PTI candidate, Muhammad Zamir Khan, was the second runner-up with 4,942 votes, unofficial results showed.
According to data shared by the election commission, 52,671 votes were polled in the by-election in LA-15, Bagh-II constituency, which has 101,146 registered voters, including 48,038 women.
The election commission had set up 189 polling stations in the constituency, of which 30 were declared sensitive and 20 most sensitive.
Around 2,500 police personnel and 350 paramilitary troops were deployed in the constituency to maintain law and order.
Witnesses said there were incidents of violence at some polling stations, during which some people were injured.
Ashraf Khan, a 65-year-old shopkeeper, commented that the “election was outwardly contested by political parties but inwardly by clans”.
“All contesting parties begged for votes in the name of the clan, rather than the ideology,” he remarked.
Allegations of rigging
Before the announcement of official results, PML-N lawmaker Hina Pervaiz Butt accused the PPP of rigging in the by-election.
“People from the PPP have been caught red-handed while rigging in Kashmir,” she tweeted along with a video, shortly after the polling concluded.
In the video, a man is heard saying that he was at a polling station where another man, whom he did not identify, had stamped ballot papers in a bid to rig the elections.
“The entire polling station has been grabbed … Zia Qamar’s people first verbally abused the presiding officer and occupied the polling station … The Rangers here outside but not doing anything and Zia Qamar is sitting here,” he is heard saying.
Sharing another video on Twitter — in which a man is counting ballot papers that he said were “evidence” — Butt said, “The PPP has started stamping [ballot papers] in Kashmir as well. Rigging is not acceptable.”
Dawn.com has not independently verified the two videos.
Separately, another PML-N leader, Attaullah Tarar, claimed that his party’s candidate had a “clear lead” in the by-election.
“There are reports of rigging, [but] God willing, the PML-N will win. It is not possible that polling is completed 80-90 per cent at some stations and 30-39pc at others,” he tweeted.
In a later tweet, he said, “Had it not been for 90 per cent casting at certain polling stations, results would’ve been different.”
On May 23, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addressed a rally in the constituency. However, he had avoided making a direct request to the electorate to vote for his party’s candidate.
On the other hand, PML-N senior vice president Maryam Nawaz addressed an election-related rally in Bagh on June 5, where she asked the voters to support her party’s candidate in the by-election.
Meanwhile, the crisis-hit PTI could not organise a visit of any of its senior leaders to support its candidate.