Pakistan today turned out to vote in one of the larger turnouts in its history, for the first time in a transition from a government who has just completed a 5 year full-term in office, to its successor. Defying threats by the Taliban young and old, urban and rural voters, stood in long lines at ballot stations to register their protest against 5 years of mismanagement and terror.

The threats were not unfounded; Karachi became the main victim where a bomb blast at an ANP election centre killed 10 persons and wounded 50 others. ANP’s Shahi Syed whose party workers were killed and wounded was in tears but refused to boycott the polls and agreed to accept whatever would be the results declaring a three-day mourning. Besides, Quetta, Chaman, Matni and Landi Kotel were other locations where the Taliban could create minor disturbance either at polling stations or a police mobile as at Matni. The total death toll, including in Karachi was well over a dozen.

Either because of the high turnout or disturbance the period of voting was extended by one hour (up to 1800hrs) across the country to accommodate long lines of voters. At seven constituencies in Karachi, which have been the sites of violence, the voting time was extended by three hours i.e. up to 2000hrs.

The biggest scene of confusion was Karachi where complaints of a different nature were heard. Reportedly, one political party did not allow its members to go the polling stations; the election staff at certain polling stations was obeying the orders of a particular political party; at places, it was alleged, the ballot papers had not reached or were found missing. The MQM boycotted polling at two constituencies, JUI-P showed lack of trust in the voting at Karachi and Hyderabad and boycotted the polls at both the places. The Sunni Tehreek and Jama’at-i-Islami (JI) boycotted the elections in both Karachi and Hyderabad. There were reports of rigging and irregularities; at certain constituencies where women were not allowed to cast their votes and the police and election staff themselves stamped the ballot papers. JI staging a sit-in before the Karachi office of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was fired upon, compelling its workers to run for their lives. The ECP was left with no choice but to admit that it has failed to hold free and transparent elections in Karachi, leaving the commentators to speculate whether it would go in for cancelling this election and hold another one. The election result that began pouring in but only from some polling stations were patchy and no final conclusion could be drawn from them. But what is certain is that Pakistan has voted for a progressive future. For all that Pakistan has suffered at the hands of violemnt extremists and terrorists in the last few years, it has given its decision today that it will not be cowed. The vote is the way forward that we have chosen. May those voted into power have the ability to shoulder the responsibility of leading Pakistan to prosperity.