Polling commenced at 8 am and will continue until 5pm. A nationwide public holiday has been announced, facilitating 128,585,760 registered voters to exercise their franchise. Counting of votes will promptly follow the conclusion of the polling process.
People started gathering at polling stations early morning to cast their votes. To ensure the safety of voters, tens of thousands of police and paramilitary forces have been deployed at polling stations. However, just before the election, two bombings occurred at offices in the volatile Baluchistan province, resulting in the deaths of 30 people and injuring over two dozen others.
A total of 44 political parties are competing for the 266 seats in the National Assembly, with an additional 70 seats reserved for women and minorities.
This parliamentary election is critical for Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country bordering Afghanistan, China, India, and Iran. Pakistan has announced the closure of its borders with neighbouring Afghanistan and Iran to ensure security during the ongoing general elections, according to Dawn. The decision, disclosed by Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch on Wednesday, aims to maintain stability during the polling process.
The Pakistan Muslim League, led by three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is considered a strong contender for power. Sharif, who returned to Pakistan last year after a period of self-imposed exile, has seen his convictions overturned, allowing him to seek a fourth term in office.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, led by imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan, has alleged that their candidates were unfairly denied the opportunity to campaign before the vote. Imran Khan, a former cricket star turned politician who was ousted from parliament in April 2022, remains popular among his followers despite being imprisoned and disqualified from running in this election.
For Imran Khan, this election marks a significant setback. Candidates from his party have been forced to run as independents after being denied the use of the party symbol on voting slips. Despite allegations of harassment and restrictions on their rallies, authorities deny any wrongdoing.
Security measures have been intensified across the country, with a significant presence of police and paramilitary forces at polling stations. However, the recent bombings in Baluchistan have raised concerns about the safety of the election process.
The Pakistan People’s Party, led by Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the son of the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, is also a formidable force in the south of the country. Both parties are determined to keep Imran Khan’s party out of power.
If no single party secures a simple majority, the party with the most seats will have the opportunity to form a coalition government.
The outcome of this election will have far-reaching implications for Pakistan’s future. The challenges facing the country, such as economic instability and security threats, require a strong and capable government. As the voting process continues, the eyes of the nation and the international community are focused on the results that will shape Pakistan’s path forward.
With inputs from agencies