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 On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Nigerians Await New President With High Hopes

When pomp and circumstance of inauguration end in Abuja, Buhari will sit down to the hard task of governing Nigeria More

India's Restrictions on Several NGOs Raise Concerns

Political analysts link recent clampdown on advocacy groups to report last year that said foreign-funded NGO’s negatively impact economic development More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs