Fearful Pakistan voters trust in God, not security

Updated on Feb 18, 2008 12:57 PM IST
The voting begins for delayed parliamentary election after a campaign marred by violence including Benazir's murder. In a fragile state | VideoAll set for polls | Pics'Elections a fraud' | VideoBig Idea | Amit BaruahTwo nations, two choices
HT Image
HT Image
AFP | ByNasir Jaffry, Peshawar, Pakistan

Shuffling into a women's polling station beneath a flowing


, Saima Zahoor says she hopes for divine protection from the wave of violence that has marred Pakistan's elections.

The housewife was one of only a few to vote in the two hours after polls opened in the northwestern city of Peshawar, close to the Afghan border where Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants have launched a string of suicide bombings.

"I am scared because of all the bombings but I am sure Allah will protect me and all the people voting today," Zahoor told AFP as she cast her ballot at Government Girls' High School Number 2.

Speaking from beneath her all-covering Islamic garment, she said that there were particular fears militants would target women's polling stations "because of the opposition in our society for women to go out and vote."

Men and women vote at separate locations throughout Pakistan, an Islamic republic.

Pakistan's election campaign has unfolded amid heightened public fears ever since the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, the Muslim world's first female prime minister, at a party rally in December.

The government says it has deployed 81,000 troops to secure voting following a series of subsequent bombings, including one targeting Bhutto supporters in a northwestern tribal town on Saturday that killed 47 people.

AFP reporters saw no queues at the 10 polling stations they visited in Peshawar. No troops could be seen but about a dozen police were on guard at each polling station.

"My family members are really angry with me because I left the house against their advice. They told me not to go and vote because of the security situation," elderly voter Alam Gul said.

"The turnout is very low so far," electoral official Taj Mohammed told AFP at one station.

Gul Meena, a woman in her 60s, said she was brought to vote by the party that she supports, the Awami National Party (ANP) -- a secular, ethnic Pashtun nationalist grouping.

Bombers targeted two ANP meetings in the run-up to the polls.

"I want to vote as soon as I can and then go home. I don't know where and when the bombers will explode themselves. God knows better," she said.

Across the street, a vendor selling steaming cups of green tea shook his head and said: "Look, both voters and customers have disappeared."

Queues were bigger in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, with dozens of people waiting outside one polling station near the public park where Bhutto was slain in a suicide attack.

In the southern port city of Karachi, many polling stations were deserted but there was a bustling atmosphere in the slum neighbourhood of Lyari, a stronghold of Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party.

"I have lived a long life and I am not afraid of bomb blasts," said 60-year-old PPP supporter Sakina Bibi, chanting "Long Live Bhutto" after she cast her vote.

"I am far less courageous than Bhutto but I would be ready to die to achieve her mission," the voter said.

Labourer Mohammad Nazir, 45, a father of four, said there were widespread security fears "but we should defy these attacks, because they are meant to keep us away from the election and we should use our right to vote."

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Sheikh Rahimullah Haqqani was killed in an attack in a seminary in Kabul.

    Top Taliban cleric killed in blast in Kabul: Officials

    A prominent Taliban cleric, Sheikh Rahimullah Haqqani, was killed in an attack in a seminary in Kabul when the attacker detonated explosives hidden in a plastic artificial leg on Thursday, according to officials and Taliban sources. It was not immediately clear who was behind the blast. Four Taliban sources told Reuters the attacker was someone who had previously lost his leg and had hidden the explosives in a plastic artificial leg.

  • The Chinese action came less than a month after Beijing blocked a similar joint proposal by India and the US to blacklist Pakistan-based deputy leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba Abdul Rehman Makki. (REUTERS)

    China says it needs more time to assess US, India proposal to blacklist JeM chief’s brother at UNSC

    China on Thursday said it needs more time to “assess” the India-US proposal to list Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) leader Abdul Rauf Azhar as a global terrorist at the UN Security Council, hours after blocking the joint effort. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the 1267 Committee of the UN Security Council has clear provisions about designating terrorist organisations and officials. China had similarly sought time to assess the case.

  • Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi speaks during a press conference on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh on August 5, 2022. (AFP)

    China, Nepal agree on cross-Himalayan railway

    China has agreed to finance a feasibility study for a cross-border railway with Nepal under the trans-Himalayan multi-dimensional connectivity network, part of the Belt and Road Initiative and pledged $118 million for China-assisted projects in the country, the foreign ministries of the two countries have said. Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, Wang Yi said China will work with Nepal on power projects and also in building cross Himalayan connectivity projects.

  • File photo of Sri Lanka's then president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

    Sri Lanka's ex-leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa leaves Singapore: Report

    Former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa left Singapore Thursday, the city-state's immigration office said, after his social visit pass expired. "The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority confirms that Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa left Singapore on 11 August 2022," the office said in reply to an AFP query. Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives on July 13 and then to Singapore, where he announced his resignation after months of protests over Sri Lanka's economic meltdown.

  • Between 2019 and 2020, those aged 15 to 24 experienced a much higher percentage loss in employment than the rest of the labour market, the ILO said in a report.

    Global youth unemployment set to slip to 73 million in 2022: UN

    The total global number of unemployed youths should fall to 73 million in 2022, down by two million from the year before, the United Nations said Thursday. However, the figure is still six million higher than the pre-pandemic level of 2019, with the recovery in youth unemployment lagging behind the bounceback in other age groups, the UN's International Labour Organization said.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, August 11, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now