The first vote was cast at 8.08am in Faisalabad. The second vote was reportedly cast in Lahore in NA-131. Thousands of voters have already swarmed the streets of Pakistan amidst tight security. An unprecedented 370,000 troops are stationed at the polling stations countrywide to provide security to the voters. Much to the amusement of the media, political supporters also reportedly gathered for a hearty breakfast hosted by Sheikh Rasheed in Rawalpindi before voting began as well. A group of ‘pehelwaans’ also graced the polling stations with an interesting show of pomp and zeal. Several political influentials including Asad Umar, Farooq Sattar, Yasmin Rashid, Ayaz Sadiq, Shahbaz Sharif, Khursheed Shah and more have already cast their votes.
Throngs of women have also come out to choose their leaders. A record number of female voters are turning up in Peshawar. And in the most welcome news yet, Khushab’s polling station #232 is getting female voters for the first time ever. Amina Bibi was the first voter to cast the vote at Khushab’s polling station, effectively breaking the norm of women not being able to pervade public spaces to exercise their rights as equal citizens of the country. A woman in Bannu has also cast her vote, which is something that must be celebrated.
People are also glued to the television screens with timely advertisements reminding people to go out and vote. Needless to say that election fever is at all time high across the country. It is a big day for Pakistan. And surely, people are excited to come out after five years to demand a change in the status quo.
However, along with the positive fervor, several unsettling developments have the public on edge as well.
The ECP has their complaints cell up and running. One of the earliest complaints they have received is relating to media, who alleged that they were not being allowed to enter polling stations. The ECP commendably took swift notice of this complaint and Secretary ECP Yaqoob Babar has urged that media personnel be allowed to cover the proceedings. Babar has said that they are steadily monitoring the situation across Pakistan.
The greatest problem right now is that of late balloting process at several polling stations, particularly in Karachi.
More than 45 complaints have already been made across Pakistan, excluding Balochistan. The complaint cell is receiving more complaints from Sindh as opposed to Balochistan. Voting began late in Nawabshah and voters were dismayed at having to wait long hours for the presiding officer to arrive. The more pressing concern that will remain throughout the day is whether the constricted time will be made up for later during the day. People seeking to vote in important constituencies of Sindh are concerned whether all registered voters will be able to make it to the polling stations in time. Some influentials are also questioning why voters are being deterred from entering the polling stations on time. Is there a conspiracy on the horizon?
On the flip side, there were ghost stations in Lyari, where voters did not turn up in time even though the presiding officer was already there. People are forced to wonder whether PPP’s confirmed seat is in trouble in Sindh. Are people finally getting wary of dynastic politics of PPP?
The first (and hopefully) the only arrest of the day was also made in the first hour of balloting.
A PML-N supporter has also been arrested after an altercation with the police. He is reportedly mentally unstable and so was taken away by the police. But media personnel at Samaa Tv rightly pointed out how violently the man was arrested if there was knowledge of him being mentally unstable. Here is hoping that the situation across Pakistan remains calm after this unsightly first incident.
Cell Phone usage is another concern peeving election commision and the public alike.
NA-156 in Multan apparently has seen a disregard for the cell phone usage policy. Election officers at the scene are using their cell phones, which is something they are not allowed to do. Voters are also urged to leave their cell phones at home since there are no means to secure personal articles at the scene. Better to be safe than to face inconvenience later.
These are just some key updates from the first hour of #ElectionDay2018. For those heading out to vote later during the day, remember to vote for the mandates and the policies of your candidate. Vote according to what you feel is right for all in society and not according to your political party affiliations alone. Let’s give deserving independent candidates a chance this time wherever they are the better choice as well. Political parties may be the better choice in some places, but don’t just dismiss independent candidates entirely. They are the key to put in motion lasting changes in the political landscape of Pakistan. Let’s get rid of the “looli langri jamhooriat” for good!