February 8, 2024

Staff report


LAHORE

Voicepk observed the proceedings of the election day, aiming to identify any potential human rights violations in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Turbat, Mohmand and Bannu. They reported incidents of women prevented from voting, terror attacks in Balochistan and inconveniences caused by the disruption of internet and mobile services.

Lahore saw a sluggish start to the election day. In NA-130, tensions between PML-N and PTI supporters were palpable. PML-N supporters expressed their hopes for Nawaz Sharif to address inflation, while PTI workers declined to appear on camera in support of their candidate, Dr. Yasmeen Rashid, citing fears of potential reprisals.

Volunteers at the political party camps set up to assist voters seemed uncertain about how to guide them amidst mobile connection issues and internet slowdowns. Voters were seen wandering around in search of their designated polling stations, as the information provided via the 8300 service proved to be inaccurate.

However, the pace picked up gradually in the afternoon. In NA-128, where the contest was between PTI backed independent candidate Salman Akram Raja and Istehkam-e-Party of Pakistan’s Awn Chaudhry. Voicepk caught up with women and elderly voters at a polling station in Gulberg, Lahore. The women were mostly satisfied with the polling arrangements.

They also witnessed physically handicapped individuals having to navigate several flights of stairs to reach their assigned polling booths.

Representing the Christian community in NA-128, one man said that his people would like the winning candidate to ensure employment for the Christian youth and set up medical facilities in the area.

Mobile and internet services

Connectivity was significantly low nationwide on the election day. The Ministry of Interior stated that “precious lives have been lost” and emphasized the necessity of implementing such measures to maintain law and order and address potential threats.

This caused inconvenience to many people who ventured out of their homes to cast their votes. Rights activists deemed this action to be a violation of the basic right to information and communication.

The situation raised serious concerns about the transparency and integrity of the elections. It obstructed journalists from reporting on-site.

Talking to Voicepk, Usama Khilji, a digital rights activist, condemned internet and mobile phone service blackout. He added, the disruption in connectivity also goes against the order of the Sindh High Court, which ordered the authorities to ensure uninterrupted internet services.

“This created an atmosphere of uncertainty among voters, who feared the possibility of untoward incidents occurring,” he said.

Women

Women were prevented from voting in North Waziristan’s constituency NA-40 Miranshah, as an unidentified man took away the ballot box. Likewise, in PB-27, Balochistan, women scuffled with the police, FC and Levies officials after which polling was stopped.

Polling stations

Across the country, people expressed extreme inconvenience in locating their assigned polling booths. It was common for each family member to be allocated a different polling station, leading to a cumbersome voting process for many.

Security and terror

According to police sources, workers of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and PTI clashed at a polling station in Lakki Marwat. An explosion near a police vehicle in DI Khan killed four policemen while five were injured. In another incident in Panjgur, bomb blast killed two children.

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