Polling stations are open in Pakistan for a general election, which promises to be a close-run affair, between cricket player turned anti-corruption crusader Imran Khan and the party of jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The vote was marred by allegations of army meddling in the campaign to boost Khan’s chances.
Women cast their votes for the first time in the history of Upper Dir as polls opened across the country Wednesday. Queues of women could be seen outside the polling stations in constituencies NA-5 and PK-12. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had earlier said that any area where women are stopped from or face hindrances in voting could face the election in its constituency becoming invalid.
They ECP said the results of any constituency would be declared invalid should the female turnout be lower than 10 per cent. Any person found involved in or facilitating such a deal may face up to three years in prison.
A PTI worker is shot dead after ANP and PTI workers clash in Swabi’s PK-47 constituency. At least two persons — wounded in the incident — were shifted to the hospital, District Police Officer Syed Khalid Hamdani said.
PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi spoke to the media after casting his vote in Multan. The politician said that the political climate that developed by last night suggests that PTI will clean sweep all six seats from Multan. “The pattern I have seen so far, the camps, the deployed army, and the discipline, it all looks on point,” he observed, adding that the Election Commission ‘has acted responsibly.’
Pakistan’s nearly 106 million registered voters have a chance to choose their representatives in the national and provincial assemblies — as well as their next prime minister — as the country goes for its 11th General Election on July 25.
Polling began at 8AM and will conclude, without any break, at 6PM across the country’s 85,307 polling stations, of which 17,007 have been declared “highly sensitive”, results will be announced within 24 hours.
As many as 12,570 candidates are contesting for a total of 849 seats of national and provincial assemblies in the general election.According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, 3,459 candidates are contesting for 272 general seats of the National Assembly, while 8,396 candidates are running for 577 general seats of the four provincial assemblies – Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
More than 30 political parties have fielded their candidates for the elections. The opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, is looking to unseat the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which was formally led by the now jailed ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is also in the race. Shahbaz Sharif, the president of the PML-N who is hoping to become the next prime minister of Pakistan, was among the first people to cast his vote in Lahore.
“Just cast my vote. High time that all of you came out to vote for Pakistan’s progress and prosperity. May this election be a source of peace and stability for the nation!,” he tweeted after casting his vote.
For a smooth polling process, the ECP has deployed around 1.6 million staff at polling stations across the country. About 449,465 policemen and over 370,000 military personnel have been deployed for security. In a special message yesterday, Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Sardar Raza Khan urged voters to fulfil their national duty of casting the ballot.
A public holiday has been declared across the country on Wednesday in order to facilitate the voting process. Pakistan’s National Assembly comprises a total of 342 members, of which 272 will be directly elected today whereas the rest — 60 seats reserved for women and 10 for religious minorities — are selected later through proportional representation among parties with more than five per cent of the vote.
A party can only form the government if it manages to clinch 172 seats in total. The run up to the elections have seen a massive crackdown on the media and allegations that the military has secretly backed the campaign of Khan while targeting his political opponents.