Islamabad [Pakistan] : People in Pakistan began voting on Thursday in an election marred by allegations of poll rigging, with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan and other leaders of the party, including Shah Mahmood Qureshi, currently in prison.
Imran Khan, PTI founder and considered one of the most popular leaders in the country, is incarcerated in Adiala jail on multiple charges. The cricketer-turned-politician has been disqualified from contesting the polls and has been sentenced to 10 years in the cypher case, 14 years in the Toshakhana case, and seven years in the 'un-Islamic' marriage case.
Furthermore, the Pakistan Supreme Court upheld the Election Commission of Pakistan's decision to revoke the party's iconic 'bat' symbol. However, Khan has maintained that all the cases against him are "politically motivated" and has vowed that his party PTI will spring a 'surprise' on February 8, Dawn reported.
PTI has said that the "illegitimate and fascist" regime has blocked cell phone services across Pakistan on February 8. PTI urged the people to counter the caretaker government's "cowardly act" by removing passwords from personal WIFI accounts.
In a post on X, PTI stated, "Pakistanis, the illegitimate, fascist regime has blocked cell phone services across Pakistan on polling day. You are all requested to counter this cowardly act by removing passwords from your personal WiFi accounts, so anyone in the vicinity can have access to internet on this extremely important day. We are all in this together & we will win together!"
Pakistan's caretaker Interior Ministry on Thursday announced the temporary suspension of mobile services across Pakistan, Pakistan-based Dawn reported. Citing the "deteriorating security situation," the ministry emphasized the need to safeguard against potential security threats.
Imran Khan's party PTI has also shared visuals of people coming out to vote in the elections. Sharing a picture of people who are standing in queue outside polling station, the PTI in a post on X stated, "In Karachi too, people came out of their homes to vote."
In another post on X, PTI stated, "Lahore is out in massive numbers at various polling stations, waiting in long queues even before polling started!"
PTI has rejected reports about party boycotting elections. On February 7, PTI said that the "illegitimate regime" has used "every ounce of fascism, propaganda & unprecedented pre poll rigging" against PTI led by "illegally incarcenated Imran Khan."
In a post on X, PTI stated, "Let the world know that this is the level to which the illegitimate, fascist regime has stooped to! Petrified of the massive turnout tomorrow for General Elections, the controlled media is being used to run a fake news about PTI boycotting elections, along with running a fake audio!"
The party added, "The illegitimate regime has used every ounce of fascism, propaganda & unprecedented pre poll rigging against Pakistan's largest, most popular & only federal party PTI, led by illegally incarcerated Imran Khan. Yet, the resolve of the nation proved stronger than the oppression! The will of the people will reign supreme!"
In a video message posted on his official handle, Khan urged his supporters to come out and vote in large numbers. In a video message on February 7, Khan said, "Elections are tomorrow. I want you to come out and bring out as many people as you know. Because you will change the fate of yourself as well as that of your children through these elections."
Former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria has said the Pakistan general elections are the "most predictable, the most rigged."
He said, "These elections on February 8 are not just the most predictable, but also the most rigged, because it's clear for everyone in Pakistan, if you see the commentary that is coming from within Pakistan, that the election results are clear, that the army in various ways is doing pre-election engineering, it will probably do some election engineering and post-election engineering to get a government that it wants in place."
"It is said that it will possibly be a selection of Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N) party. So I think that is a widespread expectation, and that's fairly accurate," Bisaria added.
More than 17,000 candidates will be contesting today's elections in Pakistan, Pakistan-based Dawn reported. Voters will elect 266 candidates to the Pakistan National Assembly, who will later, by a majority vote, elect the next PM. Simultaneously, voters will also elect representatives to their respective provincial assemblies, who will then elect the provincial chief executives under a similar process.
Elections have been postponed in one national and three provincial assembly constituencies due to the deaths of contesting candidates. This includes NA-8 (Bajaur), PK-22 (Bajaur), PK-91 (Kohat) and PP-266 (Rahim Yar Khan). Voters elsewhere will cast two votes each -- one for each of the two assemblies.