ISLAMABAD: After 10 hours of polling marred with incidents of deadly clashes and a suicide attack in the provincial capital of Balochistan, the biggest ever counting of votes in Pakistan's history began on Wednesday at 7 pm local time.
Early results have put Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in lead with the party leading in 82 seats as against Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N) who is ahead in 57 seats. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was ahead in 29 at the third position.
Polling had started early in the morning and had continued without any interruption, but several reports claimed it to be slow while it was delayed temporarily in a few booths due to electric shortages and the unavailability of ink.
The Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had requested the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to extend the voting time by an hour saying that many of the voters were standing in queues and would not be able to cast their votes.
However, the ECP in an instant decision rejected the request and announced that whosoever will be in the premises of the polling stations or in the queue till 6 pm would be allowed to cast the vote after the deadline. It said that it had already extended the deadline in polling timing from 5 pm to 6 pm.
Senior PPP leader and former senator Farhatullah Babar said that manipulation witnessed on polling day will prove disastrous for the country's future. “Magisterial powers to security personnel, slowing down the voting process by allowing only 3-4 voters inside polling stations at a time, refusal to extend the polling time as voters kept waiting outside and free hand given to the proscribed militant organisations marked the polling day manipulation that will haunt the nation for a long time,” he said in a statement after the ECP declined to extend the polling time by an hour.
In Balochistan, at least 31 people were killed and more than 40 injured in the Bhosa Mandi area of Quetta when a suicide bomber targeted a police envoy that also included the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Abdul Razzaq Cheema who escaped unhurt. Though polling booths remained open in the area, some reports claimed a slowdown in turnout.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. After the attack, the Islamabad Police enhanced security at the palatial residence of PTI chief Imran Khan in the Bani Gala area of the capital.
Deadly clashes were also witnessed in many parts of the country including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Swabi, Mardan and Kohistan districts; Punjab's Lahore, Rawalpindi, Rajanpur and Khanewal districts; Sindh's Sanghar and Badin districts and Balochistan's Quetta, Naseerabad and Jafarabad districts. Some clashes among political activists were also witnessed in the metropolitan city of Karachi.
Some violations of election code of conduct and few irregularities at some polling stations were also observed at various places in the country.
Counting results are expected to be known by around 1 am local time, however, many television channels, have already started announcing results of individual polling booths and polling stations only in a bid to confuse the citizens in what is a tight race between Imran Khan-led PTI and the ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif-led PML-N.
The PPP is being predicted as the third major political force in the race followed. The announcement of the result of single polling stations of any constituency makes no sense as anyone could hardly come to a conclusion about the winner with this. The ECP had barred the television channels from broadcasting any election result till 7 pm in an effort to discourage the practice of previous polls.
More than 105 million registered voters had to cast their votes for directly 270 directly elected constituencies of the National Assembly and 570 directly elected constituencies of the provincial assembly.
The Election Commission of Pakistan also sent PTI chairman Imran Khan a notice and called him for a hearing when he openly stamped his ballot paper at a polling station of Islamabad.
Though the recently held opinion polls showed PTI an inch ahead in the National Assembly contest from the PML-N, both the parties are pinning hopes to get maximum number of seats from Punjab, who has the highest number of 141 National Assembly seats. These opinion polls have also shown that PML-N is ahead of the PTI in the Punjab Assembly contest.
A party needs the simple majority 137 out of 272 National Assembly seats to make a strong federal government at the centre. Chairman PTI Imran Khan has already requested his voters to vote for him in maximum as a hung parliament would not be beneficial for the greater interest of the country.
Any winning party will have to face a number of challenges the country is facing and the first challenge is the country’s sluggish economy, the decreasing value of rupee, bad law and order situation, followed by the souring relations with the US, the possible threat of the country’s placement in the black list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) — a global anti-money laundering watch list. The issues of water scarcity and many challenges in education and health, education of the country are in addition to that.
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Updated Date: Jul 25, 2018 22:44:19 IST