By Kubra Chohan
Experts predict a neck-to-neck finish between political parties of jailed former Premier Nawaz Sharif and ex-cricket star Imran Khan as vote count begins in Pakistan.
More than 100 million registered voters were eligible to cast their ballots across Pakistan on Wednesday in a nail biting end to an intense general election process that has been marred by claims of rigging and terrorism. Polling officially ended across Pakistan at 6 p.m. local time (1300 GMT).
Pakistanis turned out in big numbers despite the terror threats they faced.
Even on election day, at least 28 people were killed and 30 others injured in the suspected suicide blast at a polling station on the eastern outskirts of Quetta, Pakistan private broadcaster Express News said.
About the attack in Quetta, Commentator Rizwan Naseer said: “If the voters are not going outside, if they are not casting their votes, how can they elect their true representative?”
Naseer noted that recent terrorist attacks on prominent politicians had been perceived as attacks on Pakistan’s stability; however, politicians were continuing to urge people to get out and vote.
He also criticized the media for not giving proper coverage to the tragic incidents in Balochistan.
Javed Rana, a local reporter, said the recent attacks had not weighed heavily on the “overall turnout” in Pakistan.
A total of 800,000 policemen and army troops have been deployed at around 85,000 polling stations all over the country.
Tight election race
“Even if there is a 50 percent turnout, that would indicate that people were not really bothered about these terrorist attacks. But nonetheless, a sense of fear would prevail in parts of the country,” Rana said.
The voter turnout figure will become clear at the end of vote count in Pakistan, which remains ongoing.
About the political party or parties projected to win, he believed a neck-to-neck contest is expected between the PML-N and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) led by former cricket star Imran Khan.
Muhammad Mehdi, columnist for Pakistan’s widely-circulated Urdu daily Jang, predicted that the PML-N will gain majority of seats in the lower house of the parliament -- the National Assembly -- and in the provincial Punjab assembly.
Mehdi went on to say that the three-time Premier Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N may gain majority of seats in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of slain Premier Benazir Bhutto in the Sindh Assembly, while the Balochistan Assembly will get “mixed results”.
Naseer, however, said: “There may be a tie between PTI and PML-N. They may gain almost equal number of seats in the national assembly.”
He also predicted small parties, other parties and independent candidates may win 90 to 92 seats.
He emphasized that no party may win an absolute majority “because none of the political party enjoys that much popularity among the masses as PTI is a new entrant".