Vote counting continued in Pakistan on Friday as the country’s most popular politician, Imran Khan, languished in prison after millions of people cast their votes amid allegations of fraud and cell phone service outages. .
Opinion polling agencies say the country’s 128 million voters have lost track of their votes after an election campaign overshadowed by former Prime Minister Khan’s imprisonment and interference with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party by the military-led establishment. I expected the turnout to be low.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is expected to win the most seats in Thursday’s vote, with analysts saying the party’s founder Nawaz Sharif, 74, received the generals’ blessings. Stated.
However, despite no official results being announced, the PTI is on course for victory based on early voting results reported by local media representing 10 percent of polling stations in most constituencies. insisted.
PTI chief organizer Omar Ayub Khan said in a video statement issued to the media that “independent candidates supported by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf will win the next federal election with a two-thirds majority. We have the ability to form a government.”
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), another family-run dynasty, said early results for candidates were “very encouraging”.
The ECP has not commented on the fact that results have not been released more than seven hours after voting ended.
Still, hundreds of PTI supporters took to the streets of Peshawar to celebrate what they claimed was a victory for their candidate.
Adding to concerns about the integrity of the vote, authorities cut mobile phone service as soon as voting began, and only confirmed the call at 5pm local time, more than three hours after voting had ended. Restoration has begun.
The interior ministry said the power outage was meant to “maintain law and order” after two explosions later claimed by Islamic State killed 28 people and injured at least 30 others in the southwestern province of Balochistan on Wednesday. He said that it was because of this.
Nighat Dad, a lawyer who runs the nonprofit Digital Rights Foundation, called the blackouts “an attack on the democratic rights of Pakistanis.”
“Turning off cell phone service is not a solution to national security concerns. Cutting off access to information will cause further chaos.”
At around 8:30pm (15:30pm Japan time), a Home Office spokesperson said services were starting to come back online and would “soon be restored across the country”.
– “Fear of one’s vote” –
More than 650,000 military, paramilitary and police personnel were deployed to provide security on Thursday. According to the military, there were a total of 51 attacks across the country, leaving more than a dozen people dead, including 10 security forces.
At least seven police officers were killed in two separate attacks targeting election security details. The military said a total of 39 people were injured in the assault “aimed at disrupting the electoral process.”
The death toll was lower than in 2018, when dozens of people were killed in violent attacks.
“The only thing I worry about is whether my vote will count for the same party I voted for. At the same time, for the poor it doesn’t matter who is governing. We need to control inflation. We need a government that can do that,” said Saeed Tassawal. 39 years old, construction worker
Haleema Shafiq, a 22-year-old psychology student who voted for the first time, said she believes in the importance of voting.
“I believe in democracy. I want a government that can make Pakistan safer for girls,” she told AFP in Islamabad.
In the central city of Multan, Ayesha Bibi said the next government needs to provide more schools for rural women.
“We came here on foot and then in a tractor-trailer. It was a very difficult and difficult journey,” the housewife said.
– Turning the tables –
Thursday’s election had a similar feel to the 2018 polls, but the tables have turned.
And while Mr. Khan came to power with the military’s backing and genuine support, it was Mr. Sharif who was disqualified from running for office due to a series of convictions for corruption.
Bilal Gilani, executive director of polling organization Gallup Pakistan, said Pakistan’s election history is rippled not only with allegations of fraud but also with allegations of favoritism.
“This is a managed democracy run by the military,” he said.
However, unlike in previous polls, the opposition party’s name was removed from the ballot paper, forcing the PTI’s chosen candidate to run as an independent.
Khan, a former international cricketer who led Pakistan to victory in the 1992 World Cup, was allowed to vote by post from Adiala Jail, PTI officials said.
The former prime minister was sentenced last week to a long prison term on charges of treason, corruption and illegal marriage.
Analysts say the assassination shows how worried the military is that the PTI’s chosen candidate could still decide Thursday’s vote.
“Post-poll fraud will now begin,” PTI intelligence chief Raof Hasan told AFP.
But he said the party still had “ample opportunity for a surprise” if Pakistanis were able to vote fairly.
No matter who wins, the economy will be in shambles, with inflation soaring to nearly 30% and a balance of payments deficit freezing imports and severely hampering industrial growth.