For voters,no threat bad enough

60 per cent voter turnout despite violence that killed at least 26,injured several others

Written by Reuters | Islamabad | Published: May 12, 2013 2:16:07 am

Election Commission orders repoll at 42 stations of NA-250 constituency in Karachi * Nawaz Sharif set for third term as PML-N takes massive lead over rivals PTI and PPP

A string of militant attacks and gunfights that killed at least 26 people cast a long shadow over Pakistan’s general election Saturday,but millions still turned out to vote in a landmark test of the troubled country’s democracy.

The poll,in which some 86 million people were eligible to vote,will bring the first transition between civilian governments in a country ruled by the military for more than half of its turbulent history.

But in the commercial centre,Karachi,the country’s biggest city,several voters complained of irregularities and intimidation and the election commission said the process was flawed.

“We have been unable to carry out free and fair elections in Karachi,” it said in a statement. The impact on the national elections was not immediately clear.

Polls were meant to close at 1700 local time (1200 GMT) but a one-hour extension was granted because many people still had not voted.

Despite the searing heat,many went to the polls excited about the prospect of change in a country that is plagued with Taliban militancy,a near-failed economy,endemic corruption,chronic power cuts and crumbling infrastructure.

“The team that we elect today will determine whether the rot will be stemmed or whether we will slide further into the abyss,” prominent lawyer Babar Sattar wrote in The News daily.

However,opinion polls have suggested that disenchantment with the two main parties,the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N),could mean that no one group emerges with a parliamentary majority,making the next government unstable and too weak to push through much-needed reform.

A late surge of support for the party of former cricket star Imran Khan has made a split mandate all the more likely. Khan,60,is in hospital after injuring himself in a fall at a party rally,which may also win him sympathy votes.

“The timing of such a split couldn’t be worse for Pakistan,” Sattar said. “The challenge of terror and economic meltdown confronting us won’t wait for a party to be granted (a) clear mandate.”

A bomb attack on the office of the Awami National Party (ANP) in Karachi killed 11 people and wounded about 40. At least two were wounded in three blasts that followed,and media reported gunfire in the city.

Four died in a gunbattle in Baluchistan. Gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire near a polling station in the restive province as well,killing two people,police said.

Several were injured in an explosion that destroyed an ANP office in the insurgency-infected northwest,and there were further casualties in a blast in the city of Peshawar.

Pakistan’s Taliban,who are close to al Qaeda,have killed more than 120 people in election-related violence since April. The group,which is fighting to topple the U.S.-backed government,regards the elections as un-Islamic.

Ballot roll

A total of 180 million ballot papers weighing 650 tonnes were used for Saturday’s general elections in Pakistan.

Some 50 helicopters flew for 347 hours to transport the papers across the country.

Security cover had been provided to five printing presses where the ballot papers were printed,a military officer said Saturday.

Malala’s Message on Election Day

It’s an honour for me to share some words with my sisters and brothers in my country.

If we want education,electricity and natural gas in our country,we must take a step.

Let’s vote for our country. We never realised how much powerful our vote is. One vote can change our future.

It’s our vote that chooses which politicians will govern our motherland. I request all my sisters and mothers to move forward,go to polling stations and vote. It’s our right.

And one day,a change will come. All girls and boys will be going to schools and there will be peace everywhere.

Wish you good luck,

Malala Yousafzai

Women not allowed

* Even before the election results are out,numbers tabulated and victors decided,women’s vote in Pakistan is considered useless and unworthy of attention by the political leaders

* Khyber Minister Musarrat Qadeem said there were confirmed reports that women would not be allowed to vote under tacit approval of PPP,ANP,JUI-F,PML-N and JI

* No women were allowed to cast their votes in NA-156 Khanewal-I’s Mohrhipur polling station. The number of women registered to vote at the polling station was 1,260

* Women were also not allowed to cast votes in Sahriwal district where 645 were registered while voting at a women’s booth was stopped in Peshawar’s PK-8 constituency

In Karachi,a polling booth where no one could vote

Karachi: It was 6 pm and thousands had voted across Pakistan. Voting had even closed in many booths. At NA-250 (Phase IV),however,people were still standing in queues,waiting to vote.

Yes,in a polling station in DHA Phase IV Karachi (NA-250),voting was yet to start.

“It’s 5:30 pm . I was supposed to be at work by now with my colleagues,anticipating the result to what was being termed a historic election.”

“Instead I have now returned home after standing for 10 hours in line without being able to vote. It wasn’t as if the line up was too long (which it was,but I was number four in line),it was just that polling hadn’t started in our station yet,” wrote an exasperated Shyema Sajjad,Dawn Deputy Editor on its website.

She said contradictory statements kept coming in all day from the staff inside.

“First they said there were no ballot boxes. The crowd was astonished — they thought this would be the biggest setback — no one had any idea that from a required staff of 65 ECP officials,only 12 were present. That number eventually diminished to nine when some of them managed to sneak out from the gate and disappeared,without looking back,” she wrote.

“…It’s almost 6:00 pm now,my family member still in line tells me there is still no sign of voting starting yet”.

The EC said its chief has raised his concerns that polling staff in many constituencies in Karachi had been threatened. PTI

Pak past

Aug 14,1947: Pakistan formed

Sept. 11,1948: Founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah dies.

Oct. 16,1951: First PM Liaquat Ali Khan assassinated

Oct. 27,1958: Army chief Ayub Khan seizes power.

Dec. 7,1970: East Pakistan-based Awami League wins general elections. In response,Yahya Khan suspends govt. Civil war breaks out.

Dec. 20,1971: Yahya Khan resigns,Zulfikar Ali Bhutto becomes president.

July 5,1977: Army chief Zia ul-Haq seizes power.

April 4,1979: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto hanged on charges of conspiracy to kill.

Aug. 17,1988: Zia dies in a mysterious plane crash.

Dec. 2,1988: Benazir Bhutto becomes first woman PM.

Aug. 6,1990: Benazir’s government dismissed.

Nov. 1,1990: Nawaz Sharif becomes prime minister.

Oct. 19,1993: Benazir becomes prime minister for a second time following elections.

Nov. 5,1996: Benazir again dismissed amid renewed charges

Feb. 17,1997: Sharif becomes PM for a second time

Oct. 12,1999: Army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf ousts Sharif in a bloodless coup

Oct. 18,2007: Benazir returns

Nov. 3,2007: Musharraf declares state of emergency

Dec. 27,2007: Benazir killed

March 25,2008: Yousaf Reza Gilani becomes prime minister after PPP wins election.

Sept. 6,2008: Benazir’s husband,Asif Ali Zardari,elected president.

June 19,2012: Supreme Court disqualifies PM Gilani for refusing to reopen corruption case against the president.

June 22,2012: Raja Pervez Ashraf becomes prime minister

Poll snippets

Election in Karachi flawed: Poll panel

Pakistan’s election commission on Saturday said it had failed to hold free and fair elections in the country’s commercial centre and biggest city,Karachi. “We have been unable to carry out free and fair elections in Karachi,” it said in a statement. It was unclear whether the commission’s conclusion meant national elections would have to be held again.

Pak EC extended voting time by 1 hour

The election commission on Saturday extended the time for voting by an hour following large voter turnout across the country. The voting was set to end at 5 pm (local time) but sizeable number of voters kept arriving at the polling stations. Subsequently,the Election Commission announced that voting will continue till 6 pm (6:30 IST).

Jamaat-e-Islami boycotts elections

The right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami party Saturday decided to boycott the general elections for national and provincial assemblies,claiming massive rigging and mismanagement at several polling stations. It decided to withdraw candidates from Karachi and Hyderabad. The party has called a peaceful strike on May 13 to protest poll rigging.

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