Report: Pakistan elections 2013

Big support for Imran Khan as Pakistanis vote for change

Voters wait to cast their ballots in Sher Shah Colony, a village outside Lahore
Voters wait to cast their ballots in Sher Shah Colony, a village outside Lahore Tony Cross/RFI

Voter turnout is high in most parts of Pakistan on a historic election day, that could see Imran Khan’s PTI party score unexpectedly well. In the key city of Lahore, Pakistanis of all ages said they were voting PTI in the desperate hope that it will bring change.

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Pakistani’s are electing their National Assembly and provincial assemblies for the first time for 2008 and the election is historic, marking a rare peaceful transition from one elected government to another and giving Pakistanis hope that the country is on the path to stable democracy.

Despite Taliban threats to violently disrupt the “un-Islamic” poll, only two major attacks had been reported by midday and voters queued at polling stations in many parts of the country.

Dossier: Pakistan General Election 2013

Although about 127 people were killed during the election campaign, violence in Pakistan is not as rampant as it was in 2007, the year before the last election.

Many voters said that one reason for voting was to declare their opposition to the Islamist violence that has plagued the country since the start of the Afghan wars.

Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was tipped to do well but, judging by declarations of intention at the polling stations the Movement for Justice will outdo even its own high expectations.

“I’ve voted for the hope of Pakistan, I’ve voted for Imran Khan,” says retired general Riaz Ahmed Chaudhry. “We are all fed up with others because they have looted, they have filled their own pockets. Nothing has been done for Pakistan.”

Khan has promised to clean up corruption, make the rich pay taxes, refuse foreign aid and pull out of the US war on terror. But his programme has been accused of being vague on policy detail.

“Let’s give him a chance,” says Mariam Wazirzada, who has been working with the PTI campaign. “Even if things were not so vague for the other parties, did it really translate into anything? Let’s see what this party has. Let’s give it a chance and I think the vagueness wil kind of disappear.”

 

PTI was known to have massive support among young people – two-thirds of Pakistani’s population is under 30 and 40 million out of 84 million are first-time voters - but it was clear today that many had infected their elders with their enthusiasm.

 Sadat, a banker, recently moved back to Pakistan from Dubai with his family.

“Till two days I was not decided about who to vote out of lack of hope,” he explains. “And then my daughter, Sevim, came up and said, ‘You must use your to vote’ … A lot of young people are towards hope and they think we can bring a change and we are just a very little part of that.”

Sadat voted PTI, despite the fact that most of its candidates have little political experience.

“It will take them time. They are inexperienced. But I feel with the passage of time they will learn their lessons and they will eventually learn how to do good here because this country has a lot of potential … only it it becomes its problems.”

“Since I’ve moved here I’ve been very disappointed with what I’ve seen because the people, the work, it’s like there’s no-one to initiate it. So I fell like it’s my generation, maybe we can do something, we can speak about it, we can make people see there’s a change that’s needed.”

Power cuts, economic disruption and corruption are at the top of voters’ concerns but above all Khan’s political outsider status and “new Pakistan” slogan have attracted millions disgusted by the performance and perceived venality of the established parties.

Lahore is the bastion of Pakistan Muslim League-N, the party of Nawaz Sharif who was tipped to be the next prime minister as voters desert the leading party in the outgoing government, the People’s Party, PPP.

PML-N supporter Shahla Shahbaz was sticking by party leader Nawaz Sharif, despite accusations of corruption and nepotism.

“You hear people, they say only one thing ‘He’s bad, he’s bad, they are looters’,” she said. “But they are not. You can’t say ‘I’m perfect’. Nobody’s perfect.”

But Muhammad Khan, an elderly resident of Sarwar Road Cantonment who had to be helped to the polling station, voted PTI.

“This is the first time I expect my vote to count,” he said.
 

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