Voting kicked off in Pakistan for parliamentary elections on Thursday amidst rising militant attacks and accusations of electoral malpractice, prompting worries about the fairness of the election and the possibility of forming a coalition government due to deep political divisions.
In a bid to maintain order amid anticipated disturbances surrounding the controversial polls, Pakistan implemented a nationwide suspension of mobile phone services on Thursday.
With nearly 18,000 candidates vying for seats in the national and four provincial assemblies, Forty-four political parties are competing for seats in the National Assembly. This includes 266 contested seats, alongside 70 reserved for women and minorities.
The country’s 90,000 polling stations will be operational from 8:00 am (0300 GMT) until 5:00 pm, with over 650,000 army, paramilitary, and police personnel deployed for security.
However, elections have been delayed in one national and three provincial assembly constituencies due to the deaths of contesting candidates, impacting NA-8 (Bajaur), PK-22 (Bajaur), PK-91 (Kohat), and PP-266 (Rahim Yar Khan). Elsewhere, voters will cast two votes each, one for each of the two assemblies.
After the election, the newly elected parliament will appoint a prime minister. In the event of no single party securing a majority, the party with the most assembly seats can form a coalition government.
On Thursday, Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), asserted that polling commenced in various areas of Pakistan’s Punjab province without the presence of its agents, some of whom were reportedly detained by the police to facilitate rigging. The PTI’s candidates are contesting the elections independently following the Supreme Court’s decision to strip the party of its iconic election symbol cricket ‘bat’. The PTI has accused the police of dismantling its polling camps.