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The wave of violence engulfed Pakistan on its election day on May 11, 2013. Pakistan saw upsurge in violence across the country from small towns alongside border of Afghanistan to its key city of Karachi.
City of Peshawar in Pakistan’s Northern Western Frontier province was the worst target for deadliest terrorist atrocities. A suicide bomber blew himself up outside the polling station and further seven people were hurt when a bomb attached to motorcycle went off. A bomb targeting female voters was detonated at a Peshawar school injuring eight people. Other areas of Pakistan were also hit by violence, the deadliest bomb explosion in Karachi left 11 dead and 40 wounded. According to The Guardian: “Bombs at ANP party offices and at Peshawar polling station also leaves scores wounded following Taliban attacks in run up to vote.” An explosion was also reported in city of Quetta in Balochistan. A gunmen killed two people outside a polling station in the town of Sorab in Baolchistan.
In Chaman, a border town near Afghanistan, a clash between two opposition groups left several injured and tree dead. The death toll in the run up to elections has reached 130 now. The 2008 Pakistan elections were much bloodier and killed 150 people and injured 400 people when militants targeted the campaigns of Pakisan People’s Party (PPP), Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party (ANP).
Due to instability in the region, Pakistan closed its borders with Iran and Afghanistan for the following three days to keep foreign militants at bay. The government stationed 600,000 security officials all across the country to safeguard the voters and to deflect violence and vote rigging at polling stations. However despite such security measures, violence continued, and according to leading opposition party PTI, vote rigging also took place in several cities across the country.
Despite the violence and carnage, 90 millions Pakistanis finally casted their votes across 70,000 polling stations in one of the most historical elections of Pakistan. This is the first time in Pakistan’s history, when a civilian government was replaced by another civilian government by democratic means, through the sheer power of ballot box. Though the number of voters that turned up was lower than 2008’s figure, the election commission of Pakistan reported 60-80% of turn out by the end of day. Voting was extended for an extra hour across Pakistan.
In its 66 years of history Pakistan has experienced three military coups and endless number of failed governance. The 2013 elections proved to be a landmark in Pakistan’s history, where a staggering 40 million young people for the first time went to polls to vote. Social media websites such as Twitter have also played an imperative part in 11th May’s elections with voters tweeting and posting about their voting experience. Prior to elections, young Pakistanis took to the Internet to promote upcoming elections with pictures of ex-cricketer Imran Khan and his cricket bat as a symbol for change. The Facebook page ’We Want Imran Khan To Be The Next Prime Minster Of Pakistan’ has so far 930.721 likes and 528,1644 people are engaged in debates and discussions on this page.
Post elections, unofficial results by country’s election commission based on 254 of the 269 races where the counting has been completed, reveal that Nawaz Sharif is all set to serve Pakistan as the next Prime Minister. This is the third time that the 63-year-old steel mill tycoon will be serving Pakistan as the leader. Mr Sharif first served as prime minister from November 1990 to July 1993 and from February 1997 until he was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 1999 and was forced to spend years in exile in Saudi Arabia. He returned from exile in 2008, supported by thousands to compete in national elections, but lost to Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). His family is among one of the wealthiest, well-known and prestigious families of the country.
The unofficial election results has already ensued war of words between Imran Khan’s PTI and Nawaz Sharif’s party. During a press conference in Lahore on Monday, May 13, 2013, Mr.Sharif told Imran Khan to stop making allegations of vote rigging. The defeat in elections has hit Imran Khan and millions of his supporters hard. But despite their loses, PTI emerged as winners in some of the dangerous and hard to reach areas of Pakistan, such as Northern Western Frontier of Pakistan (NWFP) with 34 seats in the 99-member provincial assembly.
Now what remains to be seen is whether Mr Sharif, Pakistan’s next Prime Minister will be able to pull Pakistan out of thores of extremism and poverty. The biggest challenge he will be facing is dealing with the country’s volatile security situation, to protect the right of the Pakistanis to live in peace and to deal with the internal threat of different militant groups operating within Pakistan that will largely determine the parameter of Pakistan’s security and foreign policies.
Image credit: We Want Imran Khan To Be The Next Prime Minster Of Pakistan via Facebook