September 2002 News

People brush Pak shells aside to vote

16 September 2002
The Indian Express
Arun Sharma

Poonch: The Pakistani shells and militant attacks finally didn’t prove to be a major deterrent as nearly 45 per cent of the electorate turned out today in the border districts of Poonch and Rajouri. This was however much less compared to 64 per cent in 1996. ‘‘This is best in the prevailing circumstances,’’ said state’s Deputy Chief Electoral Officer B S Jamwal. People waited in long queues as many were not familiar with the EVMs, slowing down the process. Sunita Sharma, a first time voter who cast her vote at Sheesh Mahal polling station in Poonch, said she hoped the polls would help restore peace and prosperity in the area. Faiz Hussain at Banwat polling station near the LoC said ‘‘it is our duty to exercise our franchise.’’ Early this morning militants attacked a polling station at Gursai, killing a Punjab Armed Police cop Jarnail Singh of Bhatinda. The attack was repulsed and polling started there as per schedule, said Deputy Inspector General of Police Ashok Gupta. The security forces and the police snuffed out another challenge by militants at a polling station at Hill Kaka, killing five of the attackers this morning. Sources said the militants also fired on polling stations at Narian, Marah and Marhot A and B. They also planted IEDs at Gunthal, Phagla and Bufliaz. And, in tandem with them, Pakistani troops fired rockets and even artillery shells at various places from across the LoC. Senior Superintendent of Police, Poonch, Kamal Saini said Pakistan resorted to shelling an hour before the start of polling. They targetted Sher-i-Kashmir bridge in the town but the shells missed the target. Later, they aimed at the polling station at a government girls school in Sheesh Mahal and also an IAF chopper on the airfield which had brought some mediapersons from Jammu. While one of the shells partially damaged a house, others were off the mark. However, this didn’t scare away the people in the queues at Sheesh Mahal and the adjoining polling station at boys high school. In Rajouri — except in Thanamandi — polling was between 30 pc and 52 pc. Barring stray exchange of fire between militants and Forces at Dudasan, Gund and Dehri Liyot, polling was peaceful.


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