News / Asia

Pakistan Prepares for Historic National Elections

A policeman patrols in front of a parliament building during a session of the national assembly in Islamabad. (File)
A policeman patrols in front of a parliament building during a session of the national assembly in Islamabad. (File)
Sharon Behn
Pakistan's Election Commission says it is taking all measures necessary to secure the safety at 80,000 polling stations and ensure free and fair elections in the upcoming national vote. If successful, the election will be Pakistan's first transfer of power between civilian governments since the country gained independence in 1947.
In a series of firsts for Pakistan, commission official Muhammad Afzal Khan says work is being done to ensure that the roughly 10,000 candidates for Pakistan's 1,000 national and provincial government spots have clean financial and legal records.
Khan says officials will film and review every major candidate's political campaign. He also says the nation's civil registry of voters has been cleaned up and that the practical logistics on ballots and ballot boxes is almost complete.
He dismisses criticism that the commission has bowed to political pressure.
"We are not going to be distracted from our main national mission and objective: that is of holding of the country's best, cleanest, intimidation-free, fairest election - the election in which the loser will say, yes they have lost, but genuinely," said Khan. "We are not going to succumb to any pressure. We don't take any pressure.  We don’t take any dictation."

Bilal Mehboob, of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, cautions that the country's legal system and maze of regulations means it will not be easy to conclude the investigations Khan is talking about in such a short period of time. The elections are expected to take place within three months.
"The realistic thing would be that yes, the election commission is making a lot of efforts and trying to do things which have not done before," said Mehboob. "So I think yes, they will probably be making much better efforts this time.  But this is yet to be tested, what systems they are putting together, how much foolproof that system is."
Mehboob says the biggest problem in the upcoming election is security, not fraud. He says militant groups like the Taliban want to disrupt the democratic process, which they believe is against the teachings of Islam.
According to Khan, the commission is meeting with federal and regional government and security officials to ensure the safety at the roughly 80,000 polling stations.
"We have made a lot of ground work, spade work, just focusing on the security. We would be focusing on the areas which require more and more, the high-sensitive areas and preemption is better than cure," added Khan. "Whatever preemption can be secured - that will be done, what is humanly possible."
International and national observers are expected to monitor the elections, but there are concerns about their safety, as well. Khan says, if it were up to him, he would have cut observers out because they will detract from security forces needed to secure polling booths around the country.
"Had there been ideal security situation, I would not have said that it should be a limited number, but this is the ground reality.  Because if one observer is hurt it would damage our whole process and our image," said Khan.
Pakistan has some 85 million registered voters out of a population of roughly 190 million. Of those voters, some 10-15 million are living in violent areas, home to militants, nationalists and armed political groups.
Mehboob and other analysts say there are efforts underway to reach some kind of ceasefire or truce with the Taliban to prevent bloodshed during the elections.
Although the date of the election has not been announced, it is expected to take place in May. Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf insists nothing will detract from the vote.
"Our government has always been committed to holding elections on time and create history by ensuring the transfer of power by a political government as required under the constitution," said Ashraf. "We can take pride that we are delivering on this commitment."  

If successful, it will be the first time a civilian government has handed power  to another civilian government through the ballot box.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs