PESHAWAR   -  The counting of votes was underway till late Sunday night as polling for the first phase of local government elections in seventeen districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ended after widespread violence and mismanagement.

The polling started at 08:00 in the morning and continued till 05:00 in the evening without any break. According to officials, more than nine-thousand polling stations and nearly twenty-nine thousand polling booths were set up for the elections.

According to unofficial, preliminary results for four major cities’ mayoral race, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) has the upper hand in Peshawar, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in Bannu, Awami National Party (ANP) in Mardan and an independent candidate in Kohat.

In Peshawar, according to the unofficial results from 69 out of 521 polling stations, Zubair Ali of JUI is leading the race with 6,237 votes while PTI’s Rizwan Bangash is second with 5,638 votes.

In Bannu, according to unofficial results from 75 polling stations out of 286, PTI’s Iqbal Jadoon Khan is leading with 14,623 votes and JUI is close behind with 14,426 votes.

In Mardan, according to the unofficial results from 10 out of 414 polling stations, ANP’s Himayatullah Mayar is ahead with 1,708 votes while JUIF’s Amanat Shah Haqqani is in second place with 1070 votes.

In Kohat, according to unofficial results from 75 of 265 polling stations, independent candidate Shafiullah Jan is in the lead with 8,583 votes and Sher Zaman of JUI is in second place with 8,087 votes.

The districts where elections were held on Sunday included Buner, Bajaur, Swabi, Pesha¬war, Nowshera, Kohat, Kar¬ak, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Tank, Haripur, Khyber, Mohmand, Chars¬adda, Mardan, Hangu and Lakki Marwat.

In Takht-e-Nasrati tehsil of Karak, at least two people were killed and three others critically injured in firing carried out at a polling station.

Rescue 1122 shifted the injured to the Karak District Headquarters Hospital after administering first aid to them. In Charsadda, meanwhile, a man was wounded after unknown individuals opened fire outside a polling station.

Violence was also reported from Zakhakhel area of the Khyber tribal district, where unidentified individuals entered a polling station and broke ballot boxes. The polling was suspended in 12 polling stations after the men tried to forcibly stop the election.

At least two people were killed and several others sustained injuries when a powerful explosion took place in the tribal area of Bajaur agency near Mamund Tehsil on Sunday.

According to Levies sources, a remote control blast took place in Bajaur Agency which claimed two lives on the spot. Reportedly, four people were injured who were taken to the hospital. Security agencies cordoned off the area and launched a search operation to arrest the culprits.

Bajaur District Police Office Samad Khan claimed the blast occurred near the Pak-Afghan border in Sur Qamar area within Laghrey police station’s limits. He said that police and law enforcement personnel arrived at the scene following the blast. The official dispelled the notion that the incident took place near a polling station where local government elections are underway. He said that the site of the incident was a hilly area. “The suicide bomber suddenly appeared and blew himself up,” he said.

In the first phase of elections, polling was held for two tiers of the local bodies, while the elections in the remaining 18 districts will take place on Jan 16, 2022.

A total of 19,282 candidates are contesting for the seats of general councillors at 2,359 village councils and neighbourhood councils (VCNCs), while the number of women candidates is 3,905 for the same number of VCNCs.

Similarly, 7,513 candidates are running for peasant/worker seats, 290 for the youth, and 282 for the minority. Besides, 689 candidates are contesting for the seats of mayor or chairman of 63 tehsil councils of KP’s 17 districts.

‘Long queues of voters’

Long queues of voters are being witnessed in almost all polling stations of Peshawar City where tough electoral battle is expected among mainstream political parties for the tehsil mayor seat.

The voters thronged to polling stations at Gulbahar, Hashtnagri, Nanakpura, Faqirabad, Karimpura, Lateefabad, Pachagai, Firdus, Kakshall and Sheikh Abad and polling their votes in a peaceful atmosphere.

Great rush of voters especially youth are being witnessed in polling stations in these areas where tough election contest is expected among Rizwan Bangash of PTI, Sher Rehman of ANP, Arbab Zarak Khan of PPP, Behrullah Khan of Jumat e Islami and Zubair Ali of JUIF for Peshawar Mayor seat.

Provincial Minister for Higher Education, Kamran Bangash polled his vote in his respective polling station.

The supporters of candidates have established private booths for education and guidance of voters. The young voters are being guided about votes casting procedures as they have to poll votes for tehsils mayor or chairman, general councilors, minorities, farmers/labour, youth and women seats of the village and neighbourhood councils. Police were deployed outside polling stations for security of voters.

Voting will continue till 5pm without any break. However, voters inside polling station’s premises would be allowed to cast votes after expiry of the scheduled time. The votes counting would be started in presence of polling agents of the candidates soon after completion of voting.