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.
Sharon Behn
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.

You May Like

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid