Thursday’s Pak vote a referendum on military’s role in politics: Observers

Feb 6, 2024

ISLAMABAD: With 128 million registered voters, Pakistan is set to hold its biggest-ever national and provincial elections on Thursday (February 8) amid rising political tensions, economic instability and grave security challenges.
The interim government has pledged to hold free and fair elections as many critics have already termed the upcoming elections as partisan and said the entire exercise has been orchestrated by the powerful military establishment to keep the former prime minister in jail. Imran Khan And his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was out of power. Many observers see this election as a referendum on the role of the military in politics.
Saw the run-up to voting KHAN was sentenced to jail in at least three separate cases, while his arch rival, three-time former PM Nawaz SharifWho was first jailed and then exiled, returned and again emerged as a major contender. Hundreds of PTI leaders and workers have been kept in jail while the party has been deprived of its election symbol cricket bat.
Despite all odds, PTI has chosen to participate in the electoral process and has fielded its candidates as independents on the undertaking that they will rejoin the party if elected.
These elections are taking place amid a persistent economic crisis marked by nearly 30% inflation and the falling value of the local currency against the US dollar – the Pakistani rupee has lost more than half its value in the past two years. Pakistan and IMF had signed a $3 billion bailout agreement in July 2023; It will expire when the new government takes charge.
Pakistan is not only facing economic difficulties but also security risks. Internal violence has increased rapidly, with reports of terrorist attacks on a daily basis.
Acting Home Minister Gauhar Ijaz Said that an average of seven to eight security personnel will be deployed at each of the 90,777 polling stations across the country, divided into three categories – general, sensitive and highly sensitive.
In a country of 241 million people, of the 128.5 million voters, 46% (59.3 million) are women and 54% (69.2 million) are men. Each voter will vote for two MLAs to represent their federal and provincial constituency.
Of registered voters, 44% are under the age of 35, making the youth vote more important in these elections. Various surveys show that an overwhelming majority of youth support Imran. It is unclear whether the ongoing crackdown against Khan's party will result in lower turnout or an increase in silent protest votes for PTI-nominated candidates.
The age range of 36 to 45 comprises 22.3% of voters, making it the second largest group of voters.
About 5,121 candidates – 4,806 men, 312 women and two transgenders – are contesting the elections. National Assembly A further 12,695 seats are up for grabs for places in provincial legislatures. The National Assembly has 336 seats; Of these, 266 are decided through direct voting, while 70 reserved seats – 60 for women and 10 for non-Muslims – are allocated according to the strength of each party in the House. The party that wins a simple majority – that is, the support of at least 169 members in the House – will form the government.
Election campaigning ended across the country on Tuesday night. The electoral watchdog said it would announce unofficial results for all national and provincial constituencies on February 9.

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