News / Asia

In Pakistan's Northwest, Voters Brave Threats to Cast Ballots

A woman casts her ballot at a polling station in Peshawar May 11, 2013.A woman casts her ballot at a polling station in Peshawar May 11, 2013.
x
A woman casts her ballot at a polling station in Peshawar May 11, 2013.
A woman casts her ballot at a polling station in Peshawar May 11, 2013.
Ayaz Gul
The lead up to Pakistan’s historic election is being described as the most violent in the country’s history, and the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has been the hardest hit. But the violence has not discouraged voters from showing up at polling stations across the region.
 
Despite fears of fresh attacks by Taliban extremists long lines of men and women began to form even before polling stations opened across Peshawar. Residents in what is known as Pakistan's most conservative region described the crowds as unprecedented.
 
This has led to expectations of a high turnout in the province that has been at the forefront of Pakistan’s decade-long anti-terrorism campaign. The region has borne the brunt of retaliatory militant violence and is adjacent to the country’s volatile tribal regions, where the Taliban and other extremist groups are well-entrenched.
 
But voters say they are less bothered by the threat from militants than the performance of their province’s former ruling Awami National Party.
 
Shaguftta Khalique was optimistic after casting her ballot at a crowded polling station in Peshawar's Hayatabad residential area. She said she hopes a high turnout will put pressure on future rulers to deliver on their election promises.
 
“We see that there is going to be a bigger turnout this time. Maybe no party gets the majority but, again, whosoever will come to the [legislative] assembly will try to avoid the mistakes which were done in the previous government.”
 
The Khan factor

Waiting for his turn outside a polling station in a central part of Peshawar, shopkeeper Nisar Ahmed says he intends to cast his vote for cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s political party.
 
Ahmed says power cuts, gas shortages, corruption and other such issues are the main worries of the population, and the previous rulers could not offer any solution while in power for five years. He says Imran Khan may not be able to solve these problems quickly but voters are fed up with traditional political parties.
 
Another voter at the station, Nadeem Afridi, also rejected claims of former rulers that they will end the power cuts - known as load-shedding - if they are voted into office again.
 
He said, “if they could not end the load-shedding when they were in government they are cheating us when they say they will do it now.”
 
Many here say the charisma and potential of the 60-year-old Khan is the driving force behind the crowds at the polling stations.
 
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party has also emerged as a leading force in the province in recent months - possibly mirroring growing support nationwide. The world-famous former athlete appeals mostly to young urban male and female voters because of his calls for revamping the traditional political system. His staunch opposition to U.S. drone strikes in nearby tribal districts and his calls for peaceful talks with the Pakistani Taliban have also won him significant support in this region.
 
Election authorities had ordered political parties to end their campaigns by midnight Thursday. But Friday night, Khan’s supporters, mostly youngsters riding vehicles and motorbikes decorated with party flags and pictures, rallied on the streets of Peshawar.
 
Activists and leaders of former ruling Awami National Party or ANP say they were not able to campaign freely in the run-up to the polls because Taliban insurgents targeted their rallies and candidates. Many of those killed in the violence ahead of the polls were members of the party.
 
The Taliban claimed responsibility for most of these attacks, seen as punishment of the ANP apparently for its secular views and for backing military offensives against militants in districts, including the scenic Swat valley in the province.
 
ANP leaders dismiss allegations of poor governance and are confident they will emerge as winners in Saturday’s polls.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: MUSTAFA from: PAKISTAN
May 12, 2013 2:08 AM
Pakistani done their job very well in spite of so many casualties during this election. This election full of Blood in the history of Pakistan. Now this is the duty of Winners to serve Poor Pakistani with honesty and not like THIVES. They should try their level best to solve small problems as quick as possible. I know the accumulated problems of FIVE YEARS cannot be solved over night but at least choose the right path to solve these outstanding issues on an urgent basis.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid