Voting is underway in Pakistan to decide the fates of 17,816 candidates on Thursday as the country, roiled by a deep economic crisis, is witnessing a neck-to-neck contest between old dynastic rulers even as former Prime Minister Imran Khan languishes in prison.
Casting of ballots, which started at 8am, will close at 5pm.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which is supposedly backed by the powerful military, is predicted to emerge as the single largest party in the election that has been delayed by months.
With Pakistan witnessing an uptick in terror attacks in recent months, security has been beefed up across polling stations in the country.
“Along with 6,500 personnel of Islamabad police, 1,000 FC, 1,500 Rangers and Pakistan Army personnel are performing their duties in the federal capital,” Islamabad Police said as quoted by Dawn News.
قلات۔ ملک بھرکی طرع قلات میں بھی عام انتخابات کا باقائدہ آغاز ہوگیا۔ انتخابی عمل کاسلسلہ ڈسٹرکٹ ریٹرننگ آفیسر حافظ محمدقاسم کاکڑ کے سربراہی اور ڈسٹرکٹ الیکشن کمشنر سیداحسان شاہ آر او نثار احمد چلگری آراو شاہ محمد محمدحسنی کے زیر نگرانی جاری انتخابی عمل صبح 08:00 بجے شروع ہوگیا pic.twitter.com/PMlGqMJCQn— Election Commission of Pakistan (OFFICIAL)?? (@ECP_Pakistan) February 8, 2024
Pakistan's Interior Ministry has decided to 'temporarily suspend mobile services across the country' amid a 'deteriorating situation'.
In a statement, the ministry was quoted as saying by Dawn News, said: “Recent surge in terrorist activities resulting in precious lives have stirred the security environment in the country.”
Former PPP senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar criticised the move and posted on X: "Shutting down mobile networks on polling day is the beginning of election day rigging. Pre-poll environment was already one of the worst in Pak’s history. Cutting candidates off from their agents and staff on election day is unacceptable. How’s one suppose to keep a check and highlight any irregularity? By the time news comes out the election would have been stolen."
Pakistanis, the illegitimate, fascist regime has blocked cell phone services across Pakistan on polling day.— PTI (@PTIofficial) February 8, 2024
You are all requested to counter this cowardly act by removing passwords from your personal WiFi accounts, so anyone in the vicinity can have access to internet on this… pic.twitter.com/b0OwDhwBaB
Pakistan's former PM Nawaz Sharif is eyeing his fourth term and enjoys a stronghold in Punjab province where his Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party earned appreciation for mega infrastructure projects.
He is facing a key challenge from 35-year-old Pakistan People’s Party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. He is the son of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Imran Khan factor
Former Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who was ousted from power in 2022, is currently in prison on multiple convictions.
His PTI, which was once a strong political outfit in the country, has been prohibited from using its famous cricket bat symbol on ballots.
Despite being unable to fight the poll, Khan has voted through a postal ballot from Adiala Jail, sources told Dawn News.
Under his leadership, PTI had won the last general polls.
UN rights office voices concern ahead of elections in Pakistan
UN Human Rights High Commissioner Volker Türk has urged authorities in Pakistan to ensure that parliamentary elections this week are free and fair, his office, OHCHR, said on Tuesday (February 6, 2024).
OHCHR denounced all acts of violence against political parties and candidates in the lead-up to Thursday’s vote.
Spokesperson Liz Throssell said there have been no less than 24 reported instances in which armed groups have staged attacks against members of political parties.
- Chinese Coast Guard patrols in waters around Taiwan-controlled Kinmen Islands: Reports
- US Air Force member hospitalised in critical condition after he sets himself on fire in front of Israeli Embassy in Washington DC
- US Senator warns of possible 'cyber attack' amid cellular outage
- UK,US, alliance member countries strike Houthi targets in Yemen
- Russian President Vladimir Putin's critic Alexei Navalny's body handed over to his family