Today is the historic day in Pakistan when for the first time in the history, an elected civilian administration has completed a full term and has held elections to handover power to another political party through the elections.
Polls open today at 8:00 am ( Protected content ) and close at 5:00 pm Protected content , allowing more than 86 million Pakistanis to vote for the Protected content of the national assembly and four provincial assemblies in Sindh, Baluchistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.
The Pakistan Muslim Leaque-N (PML-N center-right) and Pakistan People's Party (PPP center-left) have dominated politics for decades, led by two of the richest families in the country, the Sharifs and the Bhuttos/Zardaris.
Again this time, the front-runner is expected to be the two time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, head of PML-N.
However, much of the campaign has been energized by a a charismatic 60 year old former cricket star Imran Khan, the leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) who offers promises of reforms and an end to corruption. Imran Khan has acquired a last-minute surge of support after fracturing his spine when he fell from a stage at a campaign rally on Tuesday.
The outgoing PPP has run a rather dim campaign, with its chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, too young to run and kept out of view due to Taliban threats.
Turnout will be crucial. Political analysts are divided on whether a wealth of enthusiastic first-term voters and Taliban threats will make turnout higher or lower than the 44 percent at the last elections in Protected content .
The Taliban have branded democracy un-Islamic and have waged a deadly campaign of attacks against the main secular parties, killing more than Protected content in what has been called the country's deadliest election in history. The umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) stepped up their threats on the eve of the elections, warning voters to boycott polling stations to save their lives. To provide security to the voters, more than 600,000 security personnel have deployed nationwide and around half the estimated 70,000 polling stations have been declared at risk of attack, many of them in insurgency-torn parts of Baluchistan and the northwest.
The main issues in this election are:
With no reliable polling data, Nawaz Sharif is perceived to be the most probable winner but if Imran Khan does well enough to become a formidable force, there are concerns that the emergent coalition will be weak and possibly short-lived.
This is obviously a positive & democratic transition of power in the nuclear-armed state ruled for half its history by four military rulers. However, the free & fair elections are crucially required in order for the majority of Pakistanis to approve the results.
I'd like to know what YOUR thoughts, concerns & hopes are about this election!