See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Pakistanis Vote in Huge Numbers Despite Threats, Alleged Poll Rigging

This post is part of our Special Coverage Pakistan Votes 2013.

Amid threats of terrorism and reports of rigging, determined voters in Pakistan turned out in high numbers, braving chaotic polling stations and long lines on May 11, 2013 to have their say in the country's first ever democratic transition of power.

The final results are not yet tallied, but former two-time prime minster Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) is expected to win and form the government.

The party's official Twitter account (@pmln_org) declared the victory:

@pmln_org: PMLN Roshan Pakistan | Thanks to the Nation for Trusting us And supporting the Revolution ! https://t.co/Qvz4kUr2SS

A woman is exercising her right to vote here during general elections 2013 at a polling station in the home town of Benazir Bhutto on Saturday. Image by jamal Dawood. Copyright Demotix (11/5/2013)

A woman is exercising her right to vote here during general elections 2013 at a polling station in the home town of Benazir Bhutto on Saturday. Image by jamal Dawood. Copyright Demotix (11/5/2013)

Popular cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who had attracted a large following among young people and urban voters ahead of the general elections, fell short of leading his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to an election win. His former wife, Jemima Khan (@Jemima_Khan), remained optimistic about the party:

@Jemima_Khan: PTI-from a 1 seat party to 2nd biggest/main Opposition in the Assembly, governing 1 province. Not a tsunami but definitely a #nayaPakistan [new Pakistan]

The vote was peaceful in most areas, though bombings and shootings in Karachi, Peshawar, and Baluchistan left a reported 29 dead and many others injured, pushing the total number of deaths caused by election-related attacks from Taliban militants and other militant groups in recent weeks to more than 150.

But despite the violence, an estimated 60 percent of the 86 million people qualified to vote made it to the polls, more than in any recent elections in the country.

Twitter was buzzing with reactions all day.

Faisal Sherjan (@fsherjan) noted:

@fsherjan: First indicator voter turnout. Chattering class participated in electoral process. Young Pakistan voted for change. Voters showed maturity

People stand in a queue to cast their vote at a polling station during the phase of the election in Karachi, Pakistan on Saturday 11 may 2013.  Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis went to the polling stations. Image by Rana Zahid 84. Copyright Demotix (11/5/2013)

People stand in a queue to cast their vote at a polling station during the phase of the election in Karachi, Pakistan on Saturday 11 may 2013. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis went to the polling stations. Image by Rana Zahid 84. Copyright Demotix (11/5/2013)

Journalist Fahd Husain (@Fahdhusain) pushed the country to break its own voting record:

@Fahdhusain: 1970 turnout was 63 percent. Highest in Pakistan history. Let's smash this record! #Elections

Writer, blogger, and development professional Raza Rumi (@Razarumi) posted a comparison:

@Razarumi: In 2008 elections voter turnout in Pakistan was 44.1%; In Bangladesh 87.4% during 2008 elections. In India 2009 election,voter turnout 59.7%

Female Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) employees register female voters with their identification cards. Image by Saad Sarfraz Sheikh. Copyright Demotix (11/5/2013)

Female Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) employees register female voters with their identification cards. Image by Saad Sarfraz Sheikh. Copyright Demotix (11/5/2013)

Reports of discrepancies and vote rigging in which people were allegedly forced not to vote have cropped up in some areas of Pakistan, mainly in the port city of Karachi, triggering protests in support of Imran Khan and his PTI party. Karachi journalist Faizan Lakhani (@faizanlakhani) shared a photo of the demonstrations:

@faizanlakhani: Picture: #PTI protests in Karachi against rigging in elections. #PakVotes pic.twitter.com/yot6KebFy1

Yasmeen Ali (@yasmeen_9) also tweeted a photo showing hundreds protesting against the supposed rigging:

@yasmeen_9: protest at Lalak Chowk against rigging in #NA125 hundreds out protesting. @HAMIDKHAN_NA125 pic.twitter.com/s8FzEEP3Sg

#Rigging is trending in Pakistan, thanks in part to PTI's social media team. This is to be noted as an important moment in the new trend of using social media as a political and mobilization tool in Pakistan.

The party alleges that the winning Pakistan Muslim League-N was seen manipulated the polls, and videos from one polling station in Lahore NA-125 and Rawalpindi NA 56 supposedly show rigging:

@PakVotes: Rigging video exposed from Rawalpindi NA-56 where PML-N workers are forcing people not to cast vote. http://pakvotesmap.pk/reports/view/240 … #PakVotes

Army officials are patrolling as the army troops have started patrolling in different areas of the city while patrolling has also increased in sensitive areas on the occasion of General Election 2013, in Karachi on Friday May 10, 2013. Image by PPI Images. Copyright Demotix

Army officials are patrolling as the army troops have started patrolling in different areas of the city while patrolling has also increased in sensitive areas on the occasion of General Election 2013, in Karachi on Friday May 10, 2013. Image by PPI Images. Copyright Demotix

They have started a Change.org petition, however, this petition only focuses on two constituencies of Karachi and doesn't mention Rawalpindi and Lahore:

Elections should be held again across the constituencies Karachi-1 (NA239) to Karachi-20 (NA258) due to multiple reports of rigging and other hindrances in the process. We want a free and fair election, with voters and polling stations protected by law enforcement agencies against those who seek to intimidate and coerce.

The interim Punjab Chief minister & former journalist Najam Sethi (@najamsethi) said PTI planned to file a complaint over four seats believed to be fixed:

@najamsethi: I just talked to [Imran Khan]. He complained about “rigging” in 4 seats by [Election Commission of Pakistan's] Presiding Officers. He said he will lodge complaint with ECP.

Pakistan is still waiting for the report of EU observers, and as of now, there are no independent reports coming in.

However, re-polling has been ordered for more than 40 polling stations in Karachi where voting was suspended on election day because of irregularities. Express Tribune journalist Omar Quraishi (@omar_quraishi) responded to the news:

@omar_quraishi: Know many people who voted for 7-8 hours to vote in NA 250 and are pretty annoyed that the result has been delayed because of repolling

The independent Free and Fair Elections Network or FAFEN and the Election Commission of Pakistan is requesting that political parties lodge official complaints with evidence.

This post is part of our Special Coverage Pakistan Votes 2013.

Thumbnail Image by Syed Yasir Kazmi. Copyright Demotix (11/5/2013)

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site