Pakistan election: officials warned to release results swiftly amid unusual delays
Pakistan's election results have been delayed unexpectedly after the recent national election. As a result, the country's election committee had to send a warning to poll workers 10 hours after polls had closed to release the results without any delay.
According to Zafar Iqbal, who is the special secretary at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the cause of the delay was an "internet problem". The announcement of the initial official results took over 10 hours after the voting had concluded on Thursday for a specific constituency.
On Friday, the Election Commission of Pakistan website displayed results for four national parliamentary seats that were declared by the country's electoral authority. The announcement was made over 12 hours after polling was concluded.
Reuters reported that the party of three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was able to secure two seats, and the remaining two were claimed by independent candidates.
Earlier on, initial signs - based on around 20% of the votes tallied - had presented an unexpected advantage for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the political group led by current imprisoned ex-prime minister Imran Khan.
The election was already affected by aggressive attacks and the halt of cell phone services, and there was no sign of a definite frontrunner several hours after the polling stations closed.
The nation located in southern Asia is facing a difficult time as it tries to bounce back from an economic disaster and cope with an upswing in militant aggression within a highly divisive political atmosphere.
In the upcoming elections, the opposition is expected to be mainly between candidates who are supported by Khan's party, which won the previous national election, and the Pakistan Muslim League of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Experts believe that Sharif is being supported by the influential military.
It is possible that a distinct result will be visible early Friday morning, as the counting process is ongoing throughout the night.
The expected outcome on all nearby TV stations were incredibly delayed to arrive. In earlier election seasons, it was common for there to be a more distinct understanding by midnight in the local area regarding which political party was ahead.
According to an announcement from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), all provincial election commissioners and returning officers have been instructed to release all election results within thirty minutes. If they fail to comply with this instruction, strict measures will be taken against them. The ECP made this statement just before officially announcing their first election result.
There are a total of 265 seats in the national assembly, but the election for one of these seats has been delayed due to the unfortunate passing of a candidate. In order to obtain a simple majority, a party will need to secure 133 seats. However, it is likely that the results of the vote may not be conclusive, according to several experts.
Many experts view Sharif as a competent contender, however, he disregarded any notion of an ambiguous outcome.
When asked by reporters in Lahore after voting, he emphasized the need for a government to obtain a substantial majority and not rely on potential partnerships, therefore discouraging any discussion of a coalition government.
Insiders informed the Guardian that Sharif had previously composed his success speech, which he was supposed to deliver at the party center in Lahore by 7pm. However, the speech was called off as the initial outcomes started to surface.
Numerous soldiers were sent out to the roads and around the voting locations throughout the nation, while the borders neighboring Iran and Afghanistan were closed for a short period of time to intensify security and ensure a harmonious polling.
Even with stronger security measures in place, nine individuals, among them two youngsters, lost their lives due to bombings, grenade strikes, and shootings.
On Wednesday, there were two explosions near the offices of electoral candidates in Balochistan, a province in southwestern Pakistan, which resulted in the deaths of 26 individuals. Subsequently, the Islamic State declared responsibility for these attacks.
On Thursday, multiple tragic incidents took place in Pakistan which claimed the lives of several individuals. In the Kulachi region of the Dera Ismail Khan district in the north-west, five police officers lost their lives in a bomb blast and gun attack while on patrol duty. Moreover, two young children also lost their lives due to a bombing that occurred outside a women's polling station located in Balochistan.
The caretaker interior minister, Gohar Ejaz, declared that the security measures were proven effective as the situation was kept under control, despite some minor incidents.
On Thursday evening, the interior ministry declared that they would be partially restoring mobile phone services which were previously suspended for security purposes.
On X, the PTI party of Khan made a statement urging individuals to eliminate the access codes from their private wifi accounts. This would allow anyone nearby to have access to the internet.
The armed forces had made great efforts to exclude Khan and his political party, PTI, from the political scene. Many viewed this as a deliberate attempt to prevent them from regaining power, following Khan's highly publicized disagreement with high-ranking military officials, which led to his removal from office in 2022.
Khan has been imprisoned since August and was not able to participate in the election. Recently, he received three distinct court judgments that would result in him being incarcerated for over ten years in matters he asserted were rooted in politics.
The party that he leads, PTI, had to face a long period of intense scrutiny before the election. This resulted in their candidates not having the freedom to participate in the election without any obstacles. The leaders of PTI claimed that the suspension of mobile services was done intentionally to reduce the number of voters, which was advantageous for their party.
Considering the intense efforts of the military to oppose Khan, not many people predicted that his party would emerge victorious in Thursday's election.
The deputy spokesperson for the State Department, Vedant Patel, informed the media that Washington had some worries about the measures that were enforced to limit the freedom of expression, especially regarding the utilization of internet and mobile phones.
Patel stated that the United States expressed strong disapproval of any violent behavior related to the elections, regardless of whether it occurred before the actual election date or on the day itself.