KARACHI: Pakistan goes to the polls on Wednesday, July 25, as the nation, its politicians and local and foreign observers anticipate with bated breath one of the most-watched elections in the country’s history.
Political parties and their candidates made intense, last-minute efforts to garner ever greater public support for the elections, as the Election Commission of Pakistan‘s (ECP) deadline for electioneering expired midnight on Tuesday.
Two main contenders have emerged among the dozens of political parties in the election fray: the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which aims to win a second term despite the jailing of its founder, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, for corruption.
“The time has come for you to make this movement a success, and announce such a historic verdict which may sweep all those verdicts away that have made Pakistan a graveyard of justice,” Nawaz urged the masses to vote for PML-N on July 25, in an audio message from Adiala jail on Monday, where he is serving his sentence.
PML-N president and Nawaz’s younger brother Shehbaz Sharif, in his address to a public gathering in Dera Ghazi Khan on Monday, claimed the PML-N was winning the elections despite all the injustices.
PTI chairman Imran Khan, who addressed the public in different parts of Lahore Monday night, lashed out at the opposing PML-N saying the former Punjab government carried out development “only in advertisements”.
The cricketer-turned-politician urged the nation to change its fate come Wednesday. “We all have to go out on July 25 to vote for the PTI,” he said.
Polling to begin at 8am
Polling is expected to begin at 8am tomorrow and conclude without any break at 6pm. As many as 12,570 candidates are contesting for a total of 849 seats of national and provincial assemblies in the general election.
Around 1.6 million electoral staff are to be on duty on the election day. 449,465 policemen will be deployed, out of which 202,100 will be posted in Punjab and Islamabad while 100,500 will be stationed in Sindh. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 87,269 policemen will be on duty.
Approximately 800,000 law enforcement and army personnel will discharge duties for ensuring security on July 25.
The process of deployment of troops for free, fair and transparent conduct of General Election 2018 has been completed, the Inter-Services Public Relations said on Monday.
Special security for highly sensitive polling stations
The ECP has planned special security measures for 17,007 highly sensitive polling stations throughout the country.
According to an ECP official, 5,878 of the polling stations declared as highly sensitive were from Sindh province, 5,487 from Punjab and Islamabad, 3,874 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA, and 1,768 from Balochistan.
The official said a total of 85,307 polling stations have been set up in all the four provinces, FATA and the federal capital. 47,813 of the polling stations are in Punjab, 17,747 in Sindh, 12,634 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 4,420 in Balochistan, 797 in the federal capital and 1,896 in FATA.
The ECP has already issued its final polling scheme for national and provincial assemblies’ constituencies for conducting the general election in all the provinces and the federal capital.
All the details regarding the final polling scheme are available on the ECP website for voters’ facilitation, the official said. The polling scheme consists of name of constituency, name of polling station, name of electoral area, census block code, serial number of voters on the electoral roll in case the electoral area is bifurcated, number of voters assigned to a polling station including males, females, and the total number of polling booths allotted to a constituency.
Election material delivered amid tight security
Election material including ballot boxes, seals, polling booths, ink, ballot papers and other necessary items are being delivered to polling stations countrywide today.
The returning officers, who were handed the election material by the ECP amid tight security earlier this week, are delivering it to the presiding officers at the polling stations under the supervision of police and the army.
The presiding officers will complete all arrangements for voting by today, the electoral body said.