Elections 2013: In twin cities, drive to remove campaign material needs more steam

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on May 16, 2013.

Islamabad – After witnessing two major political rallies, an amazing voter turnout on Election Day and brief celebrations, life in the federal capital is slowly getting back to normal after the elections.

With the exception of the Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) anti-rigging protests at D-chowk, fanfare about politics has moved off the streets of Islamabad and back to private drawing room conversations and discussions at roadside dhabas.

The Capital Development Authority (CDA) is playing a small part in this feeble return to normalcy, as well. The civic agency has removed some of the election campaign material put up by political candidates who contested elections from Islamabad’s two National Assembly constituencies.

CDA’s Directorate of Municipal Administration (DMA) has taken down banners, streamers and posters from most avenues and major roads in Islamabad’s various sectors. The material will sold be in an auction next month. However, in some markets and inner streets of residential areas around the city, streamers and posters are still visible. The rural areas of Islamabad, which fall under NA-49, are also still littered with posters of candidates.

A senior DMA official told The Express Tribune that the CDA has removed around 50 truckloads of campaign material from the city.

The official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the media, said the DMA was arranging for a crane — used for maintenance of lamp posts — to remove flags and posters that are still affixed to the top of the posts.

Once all the material has been taken down, the agency is going to auction it as scrap.

“The election campaign material will be auctioned along with other material confiscated by the DMA’s encroachment staff,” the official said. “We will make a separate category for the streamers and banners this time.”

Most of the removed material is being kept at the CDA store in F-9 Park. Large piles of banners and posters have also been deposited inside the DMA compound in G-7.

Candidates owe CDA money

Before the candidates put up the campaign material on city lampposts, they took permission from CDA and paid a fee for displaying their banners and posters: Rs60 for streamers and Rs100 for banners.

The DMA official said that the DMA staff removed twice as many streamers and banners as it had allowed.

“We have served 15-day notices to the political candidates to pay the fee for the additional streamers and banners they and their supporters put up around the city,” the official said.

According to information provided by the CDA on April 24, candidates from two constituencies had been given permission for 12,600 streamers altogether. The CDA had put a brief ban on banners at the time.

Bigger city, slower progress

Compared to Islamabad, the operation to remove election campaign material in Rawalpindi is sluggish at best. The Rawal Town Municipal Administration (TMA) has set itself an ambitious target, one that it is struggling to achieve: to remove all election campaign paraphernalia by Friday.

An officer in the TMA’s encroachments wing, who requested anonymity, said TMA staff were removing campaign material on a daily basis.

“The city is divided into four areas,” the officer said. “So far, we have removed around four to five truckloads of banners.”

The TMA will also auction the material. Both Islamabad and Rawalpindi municipal administrations did not have an estimate of the amount of money these auctions might generate. But interested parties include advertising companies and industries that usually recycle the panaflex

Unwanted Scrap

The low-weight panaflex banners are not a prized commodity for local scrap dealers, who mostly deal in steel, plastic bottles, cardboard and paper.

“Most of us scrap dealers do not accept panaflex banners and posters because they cannot be re-used like plastic bottles unless you have special machines,” said Muhammad Shoaib, a scrap dealer in Saddar. “These are either taken down by the municipality staff or by people who put them up in the first place.”

Ahmed Khan, who owns a scrap storage yard in Khayaban-e Suhrawardy, said he has not had any scrap dealers or residents come to store or sell election campaign material since after the elections.

Untouched Areas

Islamabad’s urban sectors might be getting rid of election campaign material but the oft-neglected rural areas still show signs of campaign material. CDA has removed hosts of banners from Kashmir and Rawal chowk, but not far away, in Bhara Kahu, banners of even those candidates who lost the elections are a common sight.

In Islamabad’s sectors, the CDA staff has almost successfully scratched off posters of candidates from street signs but in Bhara Kahu, the text on road signs is still buried under layers of campaign posters.

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