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Roving Periscope: Even after sham ‘elections,’ jailed former Pak PM Imran Khan may have the last laugh!

Roving Periscope: Even after sham ‘elections,’ jailed former Pak PM Imran Khan may have the last laugh!

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Virendra Pandit 

 

New Delhi: With its largest organized political outfit—Pakistan Army—holding sham ‘elections’ to the National Assembly on Thursday, and its sponsored prime ministerial hopeful Mian Mohammed Nawaz Sharif’s political outfit not getting the ‘desired’ results, the troubled South Asian nation seemed heading for fresh uncertainties.

Despite the military’s all-out efforts to crush its friend-turned-foe Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the former Prime Minister may yet have the last laugh, the media reported on Friday afternoon as, despite low polling in several areas, allegations of fraud and rigging, and multiple delays, results to the parliamentary elections started trickling in.

According to news broadcaster Geo News, the Independent candidates backed by whatever remained of the truncated PTI were said to have won 47 of some 120 seats whose results came in, as Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz won only around 18 seats. Three-time PM Nawaz was already reported to be in talks with the Independent winners to explore the formation of an army-backed government.

After several delays, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday night warned polling officers to promptly release results when they failed to do so even 10 hours after voting closed. The first result came after midnight.

The 336-seat strong National Assembly has 266 candidates elected through direct voting, while the remaining 70 seats are reserved–60 for women and 10 for non-Muslims—which are allocated based on each party’s representation in the Assembly. Securing a simple majority requires a minimum of 133 seats.

Zafar Iqbal, the ECP’s special secretary, attributed the delay in announcing results to an “internet issue,” which caused the first official results for a constituency to be announced more than ten hours after polling closed.

The media reported that low turnout, a lack of mobilization efforts, terrorist attacks in border areas, and violence inside characterized the latest polls.

As the counting for Pakistan election results progressed, reports of violence, and allegations of systemic irregularities and poll rigging, among others, spread in local media. Pakistani voters also faced several disruptions and hiccups during polling.

According to a report in the Dawn, only the lucky ones could exercise their franchise in time. For many other Pakistani voters, polling at their stations didn’t begin by even 3 PM on Friday.

Several voters were reportedly running from pillar to post to find their voting booths. In many cases, the entire family’s data was not available at one polling station.

With the communication network down in several areas, the Pakistani voters weren’t even able to check their National Identity Card (NIC) numbers on their phones.

General elections in Pakistan are usually synonymous with buzz, fervor, and festivities. However, with the hopes for the elections in 2024 grim, the Dawn reported that these elements were conspicuously absent from the electoral landscape this year.

In some areas of Lahore, where key Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leaders were contesting, the party facilitated voters by arranging food and transport. While in others where the party was in a dominating position, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) also lured voters with similar incentives.

The polling scenes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan were completely different. The voter turnout remained bleak as the two provinces grappled with violent attacks.

For the residents of tribal areas, this was the first election since they were mainstreamed following the merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. While the turnout was low, polling was largely peaceful, with a few reports of violence.

 

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