News / Asia

    Pakistani Elections: High Security, Strong Turnout

    A Pakistani paramilitary soldier checks voters before they enter a polling station to cast their ballots, in Karachi, Pakistan, May 11, 2013.
    A Pakistani paramilitary soldier checks voters before they enter a polling station to cast their ballots, in Karachi, Pakistan, May 11, 2013.
    Polls have closed in most areas in Pakistan, in historic elections that will bring about a transition from one civilian administration that finished a full term in office to another civilian administration.

    Voters went to the polls Saturday to choose a new national assembly and four provincial assemblies. Army and police were on standby to prevent any major attacks after weeks of election-related violence killed more than a hundred people. Scattered incidents of violence killed at least 14 people on Saturday, but overall observers report voting went smoothly.    

    Voters predicted record turnouts in Pakistan’s national elections, as hundreds of people from wealthy to poorer neighborhoods alike lined up outside their local polling stations determined to cast their votes.
     
    The elections mark the first time in the country's history that a civilian government has finished its term and handed over power to another civilian government via the ballot box.
     
    For decades, Pakistan has been ruled either by the military or its two main parties, the outgoing Pakistan People’s Party, and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz led by veteran politician Nawaz Sharif.
     
    Pakistani supporters of former cricket star-turned-politician, and leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, Imran Khan, ride a car decorated with his Khan's pictures, near a polling station in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, May 11, 2013.Pakistani supporters of former cricket star-turned-politician, and leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, Imran Khan, ride a car decorated with his Khan's pictures, near a polling station in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, May 11, 2013.
    x
    Pakistani supporters of former cricket star-turned-politician, and leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, Imran Khan, ride a car decorated with his Khan's pictures, near a polling station in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, May 11, 2013.
    Pakistani supporters of former cricket star-turned-politician, and leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, Imran Khan, ride a car decorated with his Khan's pictures, near a polling station in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, May 11, 2013.
    But this time, Pakistani politician and former cricketer Imran Khan entered the fray with his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf or PTI party, vowing to change the system.
     
    His message has resonated with many here, such as university student and first-time voter Noor Ul Aein.

     “This is the first time that I believe that we have hope, and we need a miracle, and I hope whatever happens, happens for the best, because we really do need a miracle," said Noor Ul Aein. "Since I have been born I have been hearing bad things, suppression, depressions in the economy, everything so I think we really need a miracle right now and we have hope, and we have hope this time, we really do. Vote for change and vote for “naya” (new) Pakistan.”

    Standing in line to cast his vote in a mud brick neighborhood with the occasional goat walking by, Muhammad Farhan said the country’s new leaders will have their work cut out for them.

    “Obviously there are lots of challenges because we have not been performing good as a nation, as in economics, as in law and order," said Farhan. "The biggest challenge would be law and order, and then the economic conditions, which must be improved.”

    Militants and extremists from the northwestern tribal areas down to the commercial city of Karachi repeatedly bomb and attack civilians and security forces in Pakistan.

    An army soldier stands with a police officer in front of a damaged Pakistan People's Party (PPP) election campaign office after a bomb blast, in Quetta, May 10, 2013.An army soldier stands with a police officer in front of a damaged Pakistan People's Party (PPP) election campaign office after a bomb blast, in Quetta, May 10, 2013.
    x
    An army soldier stands with a police officer in front of a damaged Pakistan People's Party (PPP) election campaign office after a bomb blast, in Quetta, May 10, 2013.
    An army soldier stands with a police officer in front of a damaged Pakistan People's Party (PPP) election campaign office after a bomb blast, in Quetta, May 10, 2013.
    In the run-up to the elections they turned their anger to party candidates and supporters, killing more than 100 and injuring scores more.

    Pakistan’s police were out in force to protect voters Saturday, and the army was placed on standby in the country’s most violent areas.

    But many people, such as university student Kanza Shakeel and her family in the bomb-targeted city of Quetta, ignored the threats of violence and came out to cast their ballots. She said her whole family would stay up all night to hear the results of this landmark election.

    “My family all, my relatives also here today, we are sitting in front of TV, and eating lunch, dinner, everything in front of TV, and just hearing news, nothing else, we are just hearing news, and we are just waiting to get good news,” said Shakeel.

    Pre-election polling indicated former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his party were the front runners, with Imran Khan’s PTI a close second.

    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

    You May Like

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora