Islamabad [Pakistan]: Polling for general elections in Pakistan concluded amid allegations of rigging and the shutdown of cellular and internet services, Dawn reported on Thursday.
The voting process began at 8 am and continued till 5 pm. The Election Commission of Pakistan earlier said that exceptions would only be made for people already inside the polling station.
However, the polling is not being considered free and fair, as many allegations were levelled regarding the rigging and people being barred from voting.
In a major development, the Federal Interior Ministry this morning suspended mobile phone and internet services across Pakistan to maintain the law and order situation during the general elections on Thursday.
Internet monitor Netblocks also said that the real-time data shows that internet blackouts are now in effect in "multiple regions of Pakistan in addition to mobile network disruptions," as reported by Dawn.
This development drew severe criticism from major political parties.
Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari demanded the immediate restoration of mobile phone services across the country
Women voters at a village of NA-20 in Swabi district were completely banned to cast vote, ARY News reported on Thursday.
The locals allegedly prohibited women from exercising their right to vote in Adeena village of Swabi district. According to reports, the election staff has been present at the polling station, while women voters are not being sighted.
In another incident, at least two children were killed in blast near a polling station in Washbood Panjgur, as reported by ARY News.
According to police officials, polling was stopped at the Government High School Malik Abad polling station after the blast
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) alleged irregularities in NA-236 constituency. It accused the authorities for deliberately creating hurdles, Geo News reported.
There were reports of delays in the start of voting which were rejected by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Sindh.
"The polling process at the polling station in NA-236's Abul Hasan Isfahani Road going on without any delay or interruption," a spokesperson for the Sindh ECP said in a statement.
PTI also demanded the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP to extend the voting time.
However, the former ruling party decided to submit a formal application to the electoral body, seeking an extension in the polling time, Geo News reported.
Among the major leaders contesting, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif cast his vote in Lahore. President Shehbaz Sharif and daughter Maryam Nawaz also cast their votes.
Pakistan People's Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also casted his vote and urged public to step out and vote perform their constitutional duties.
Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and other political leaders who are currently incarcerated also had their votes casted through a postal ballot from Adiala Jail, Pakistan-based Dawn reported, citing sources.
Earlier, polling operations at various stations throughout the country have encountered significant delays owing to a range of technical and logistical impediments, hindering the commencement of the electoral process, pakistan based Samaa reported.
Balochistan Caretaker Information Minister Jan Achakzai said that Balochistan will announce election results later in the evening on Thursday, Dawn reported.
"Like other provinces, Balochistan will deliver results after 5 pm," he said.
Meanwhile, political violence escalated ahead of election day, with two blasts in separate locations in the southwestern province of Balochistan on Wednesday -- a region plagued by decades of insurgency -- killing at least 30 people and injuring 40 others.
Also, Pakistan's caretaker administration, led by Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar, has failed to address the country's economic dysfunction amidst growing debt and inflation.
This means that the incoming administration will face significant challenges in handling the crisis-stricken economy since the IMF bailout agreement expires in March.
A recent World Bank report stated that Pakistan's economic development is limited to the elite which resulted in the country lagging behind its fellow countries in the wake of the economic crisis in Pakistan, Pakistan vernacular media reported.