Despite assurances from Pakistan’s caretaker government, the credibility of the country’s most expensive general elections was called into question with the suspension of cellular networks, restricting the movements of voters, terrorist attacks, and curbing media coverage, The News International reported on Friday.
According to the report, the caretaker government had assured Pakistanis that network connectivity would not be affected during the election day. However, just before the beginning of voting on Thursday, mobile internet services were shut down ‘temporarily’.
The Ministry of Interior, eight minutes ahead of the beginning of the voting process, said the cellular services across Pakistan would remain suspended as part of the ‘security measures’, noting that they were ‘inevitable’.
The daily reported that PKR 42 billion was spent to conduct general elections, making them the most expensive in the country’s history. The amount was 26 per cent more than what was spent in the 2018 elections, the report stated, adding that the increase was due to security and other arrangements by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Moreover, with more than 128 million people registered as voters, it was the biggest election in the country’s history.
This sudden decision to suspend mobile internet services inconvenienced all the stakeholders in the elections–voters, political actors, polling agents, observers, and reporters, according to the report.
The media coverage of the polls, too, was blocked, with reporters facing and complaining of several roadblocks in the collection of information and dissemination of results post-balloting, The News International reported.
Quoting a Karachi-based reporter, the daily stated that journalists faced major issues in gathering information. “We got some videos later on, but had the [connectivity] been there, it would have been easier,” the reporter was quoted as saying by the daily.
“It affected news organisations, journalists, and election ovservers’ abilities to cover the event,” he added.
Waqas Angaria, Karachi-based reporter with Geo News, said his plans of dissemination of results and providing real-time updates to the channel came a cropper due to the disruption.
Polling for general elections in Pakistan concluded amid allegations of rigging and the shutdown of cellular and internet services, Dawn reported on Thursday.
The voting process began at 8 am and continued till 5 pm. The Election Commission of Pakistan earlier said that exceptions would only be made for people already inside the polling station.
However, the polling is not being considered free and fair, as many allegations were levelled regarding the rigging and people being barred from voting.In a major development, the Federal Interior Ministry this morning suspended mobile phone and internet services across Pakistan to maintain the law and order situation during the general elections on Thursday.
Internet monitor Netblocks also said the real-time data shows that internet blackouts were in effect in “multiple regions of Pakistan in addition to mobile network disruptions,” as reported by Dawn.
The development drew severe criticism from major political parties.Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari demanded the immediate restoration of mobile phone services across the country.
Women voters in a village of NA-20 in Swabi district were completely banned to cast vote, ARY News reported on Thursday.
The locals allegedly prohibited women from exercising their right to vote in Adeena village of Swabi district. According to reports, the election staff were present at the polling station while few women voters were sighted.
In another incident, at least two children were killed in a blast near a polling station in Washbood Panjgur, according to ARY News.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)