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Polling Ends, Counting of Votes Begins; Mobile Services Restored

Polling Ends, Counting of Votes Begins; Mobile Services Restored


The Pakistan elections are a tri-contest between Nawaz Sharif, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and imprisoned Imran Khan.

Updated:

<div class="paragraphs"><p>The election comes when Pakistan faces a deteriorating security situation, an economic meltdown that has caused a balance-of-payments crisis, skyrocketed inflation, and a tense internal political situation.</p></div>

The election comes when Pakistan faces a deteriorating security situation, an economic meltdown that has caused a balance-of-payments crisis, skyrocketed inflation, and a tense internal political situation.

(Photo: Altered by The Quint

Pakistan Election 2024 Voting Live Updates: Embattled by political, economic, and judicial crises over the course of the last few years, Pakistan voted in its long-delayed general election on Thursday, 8 February.

Pakistan’s 128 million registered voters voted to pick 266 representatives on forming the 16th Parliament in a first-past-the-post system. They also voted to elect the legislatures of the country’s four provinces – Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Polling booths opened around 8am local time (8:30 am IST) and begun to close at 5pm (5:30 pm IST).

The Pakistan general elections are a tri-contest between Nawaz Sharif’s the Pakistan Muslims League-Nawaz (PML-N), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and imprisoned Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

According to Pakistan’s Election Act, the election commission of the country is required to publish official results within 14 days of polls being conducted.

While unofficial results may begin to flow in on Thursday night itself, the ECP is likely to announce results on Friday, 9 February, according to a report by Reuters.

  • Interior ministry authorities in Pakistan suspended mobile phone services across the nation as polling began to “maintain law and order.

  • Four police officials were reportedly killed in a bomb blast and subsequent shooting in Northwest Pakistan, Reuters said quoting local police.

  • Nawaz Sharif, the three-time former PM who recently returned from a self-imposed exile, is considered to be a favourite in the 12th general elections of the country.

  • The PTI and its leader, former PM Imran Khan, have faced months of a nationwide crackdown, with party leaders being arrested, PTI candidates being declared as independents, and nomination papers being rejected.

  • The general elections comes at a time when Pakistan faces a deteriorating security situation, an economic meltdown, skyrocketing inflation, and a tense internal political situation.

PPP Claims Ballot Papers Snatched At Karachi Polling Station

PPP Karachi president Saeed Ghani has claimed that workers of Irfanullah Marwat snatched four books of ballot papers at Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Girls College in Karachi’s PS-105 polling station, reported Dawn.

He further added that they are not allowing the counting of votes at the polling station.

‘Internet Outage Won’t Affect Result’: ECP

ECP spokesperson Haroon Shinwari has said that results will be announced on time and internet outage won’t affect its system, reported Dawn.

Internet services were suspended earlier owning to the security situation, said Interior Ministry.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Thanks Voters

Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf took to X (formerly Twitter) and thanked voters as the polling concluded.

“Thank you to all those brave Pakistanis who came out to vote today, despite all the challenges. InshAllah victory will be our and all plans of rigging will be defeated!” it said.

Voting Ends in Most Centers 

While voting ended across most of Pakistan’s polling centres, the process will continue where citizens have joined the queue before the 5pm local time deadline, or in cases where the Election Commission approved a two-hour extension.

At Least Five Security Personnel Killed in Attack in KPK

At least five security personnel have died in an attack during a patrol in northwestern Pakistan, a police official quoted by Al Jazeera said.

“Four police officers and one Frontier Constabulary officer are reported dead and three police officers are injured,” Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s senior police official Shahid Islam said.

PPP Urges Pakistan Chief Justice to ‘Issue Instructions’ on Mobile Service Suspension. 

The PPP has urged Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa to “issue instructions” on the suspension of internet services which it says has “impacted voter turnout”.

In a letter, the party said that it conveyed its “deep concern on the unannounced disruptions of internet” and further pointed out the government’s move was in violation of the 2018 order by the Islamabad High Court which effectively called the process of suspending mobile phone services due to “security concerns.”

Imran Khan’s Absence Looms Large Amidst Election Campaigns

The absence of Imran Khan cannot be more searing. Khan, who was sentenced to a cumulative 31 years of jail in three different cases, is the country’s most popular political leader in recent times. His adventures and run-ins with Pakistan’s powerful army establishment, however, have rendered him absent from the political arena.

With Imran Khan in jail, it is the presence of his political rival Nawaz Sharif that looms large over Lahore and other major Pakistani cities. Near the famous clock tower in Faisalabad, the only posters visible are that of Nawaz and his PMLN candidates.

Click here to read Anida Ramsamy’s full story for The Quint.

‘Worst Ever Political Engineering’: PTI

Raoof Hasan, a spokesperson for Imran Khan’s PTI, said that the country is witnessing “the worst ever political engineering” to keep Khan’s party from winning the polls.

“A reign of terror has been unleashed on the party for the past 22 months under the ‘London Plan’ to dismantle PTI and remove its founding chairman Imran Khan from the political scene,” Hasan said, according to news agency PTI.

The Military’s Role in Pakistan

For over three decades in the 76-year history of Pakistan as an independent nation, the influential military establishment has wielded substantial control. Even when the military was not officially in power, it faced accusations of extensive interference in political affairs. The country witnessed direct military governance through coups d’état led by Generals Ayub Khan (1958-1969), Yahya Khan (1969-1971), Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988), and Pervez Musharraf (1999-2008).

In instances when the military is not directly in charge, it continues to shape the political landscape through political engineering, influencing the selection and rise to power of specific political parties.

In a notable acknowledgement during his farewell address in November 2022, former Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa openly recognised the military’s pivotal role in facilitating Imran Khan’s ascent to power after the removal of Nawaz Sharif.

However, the upcoming election goes beyond military influence as Pakistan grapples with significant security and economic challenges.

‘Not a Solution to National Security’: Digital Rights Activists on Suspension of Mobile Services 

Lawyer and executive at not-for-profit Digital Rights Foundation Nighat Dad told news agency AFP that the suspension of mobile services “is an attack on the democratic rights of Pakistanis”.

“Shutting down mobile phone services is not a solution to national security concerns. If you shut down access to information, you create more chaos,” she said.  

First Lady Begum Alvi Casts Vote 

Pakistan’s First Lady Begum Samina Alvi, wife of President Dr Arif Alvi, cast her vote in Karachi today.

4 Police Officials Killed in Bomb Blast, Shooting: Report

Four police officials were reportedly killed in a bomb blast and subsequent shooting in Northwest Pakistan, Reuters said quoting local police.

Three Female Polling Agents Attacks by Taliban in KPK: NDP Chairman Dawar

Pakistan-based National Democratic Movement (NDM) Chairman Mohsin Dawar said that three female polling agents in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s Tappi region were attacked by the Taliban during the ongoing general elections,

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Bilawal Bhutto To Move Court Over Internet Ban

“Mobile phone services must be restored immediately across the country have asked my party to approach both ECP and the courts for this purpose,” PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari posted on X (formerly Twitter).

‘System Is Not Dependent on the Internet’: Election Commissioner

In a statement, Pakistan’s Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja said that the move to allow or block internet services was beyond the agency’s mandate and stated:

“We have clarified multiple times that our system is not dependent on the internet. It will not affect our preparations,” he told media outside the commission’s office in Islamabad, adding that it did not instruct or request the Interior Ministry over the decision to suspend internet and mobile networks.“

This is the decision of the law and order agencies. We can only give our recommendations. If we give them directions and if there is any incident, then who will be responsible?” he added.

Hookahs, Horses, Eggplants: Party Logos Matter More Than Usual in Pakistan Polls

A political party’s main identifier after their name and their leaders is their logo, as is the case for Pakistan. However, in Pakistan, a party’s symbol holds much more weight than in a regular election, especially this time around.

Three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) is represented by a tiger and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of slain premier Benazir Bhutto, and his Pakistan People’s Party uses an arrow.

However, for former PM and cricket captain Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, matters are not so simple.

Not only is the party entering the ever-so important polls without their widely-recognised ‘Cricket Bat’ logo, symbolic of their chief’s cricket career, but all of its 200 candidates have been assigned separate logos – from ironing boards and bowls to chickens and donkey carts.

Click here to read The Quint’s analysis of Imran Khan & his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s troubles and the key role such symbols play in the country.

Pakistani Cricketers Chime In 

Several Pakistani cricketers including Wasim Akram and Shaheen Shah Afridi spoke out of X (formerly Twitter) and urged people to step out and participate in the polls.

‘Ominous Start to Election Day’: Michael Kugelman 

Foreign policy analyst and South Asia Director at the Wilson Center Michael Kugelman called the suspension of mobile internet “an ominous start to election day.”

Imran Khan Votes From Jail via Postal Ballot

Dawn is reporting that jailed former PM Imran Khan, along with other jailed politicians from the PTI cast their votes through a postal ballot.

Apart from Khan, who is housed in Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, those who voted include former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, former information minister Fawad Chaudhry, and former Punjab province chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi.

‘Impedes Access to Verified Information’: Access Now on Mobile Service Suspension 

Non-profit digital civil rights group Access Now released a statement on the mobile service suspension and said, “There is scant evidence that disrupting the internet stops bad actors. Instead, it impedes people’s access to verified information and essential services.”

Why Were Pakistan Polls Delayed?

General elections in Pakistan were initially scheduled to take place within 90 days following the premature dissolution of the National Assembly on 10 August 2023 by President Arif Alvi, based on the advice of then-PM Shehbaz Sharif. Accordingly, elections were expected to occur by 8 November 2023.

However, due to the approval of the results of the 2023 digital census, the elections faced a delay, given that the government cited the need for fresh delimitation of constituencies based on the census results. Effectively, elections were slated for February 2024.

Mobile Services Suspended in Pakistan

According to Al Jazeera, interior ministry authorities in Pakistan suspended mobile phone services across the nation to “maintain law and order”.

According to a ministry spokesman, “It has been decided to temporarily suspend the mobile service across the country.”

The spokesman added that “security measures are essential to maintain law and order situation and to deal with potential threats”.

Voting Begins

As polling in the Pakistan general elections begins, voters will cast their ballots for two legislators to represent their constituency – federally and provincially.

The Candidates: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari

35-year-old Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, a former foreign minister and scion of a family that has produced two prime ministers, is advocating for new ideas and leadership to address the political and economic instability in the nation.

As the son of the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007, and the grandson of former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was executed by a military dictator in 1979, Bhutto Zardari carries the legacy of a revered political family in Pakistan.

Despite the political significance of his family, the PPP led by Bhutto Zardari has faced challenges from the PML-N and the PTI in the ongoing electoral battle.

The Candidates: Nawaz Sharif 

Three-time Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned to his homeland in October 2023, ending a four-year self-exile in London after the nation’s Supreme Court reversed its six-year-old verdict disqualifying politicians found not to be “honest and righteous.”

Sharif’s final term in office was marred by tumultuous events commencing with a then-Opposition-led blockade of Islamabad and his eventual disqualification by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2017. This verdict followed extensive hearings prompted by the “Panama Papers” revelations relating to alleged corruption during his preceding two tenures.

The former prime minister was convicted in absentia while he was in London tending to his ailing wife, Geo News reported. He was also slapped with a seven-year imprisonment and a PKR 1.5 billion fine on Sharif in the Al-Azizia sugar mills case.

The Candidates: Imran Khan 

Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have faced multiple challenges in the aftermath of Khan’s removal as prime minister in a no-confidence vote in April 2022.

The cricketer-turned-politician has been shot, is being tried in cases connected to 180 charges ranging from rioting to terrorism, and was incarcerated following a conviction in the Toshakhana corruption case, where he was accused of selling the State’s gifts.

Despite maintaining broad public support, the prospects of a political comeback for 71-year-old Khan seem tenuous.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)



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