And thick and fast they came at last, To vote, and vote, and vote
ISLAMABAD, May 11: With due apologies to Lewis Carroll (whose words have been modified), the people of Islamabad and Rawalpindi came out on Saturday to vote and vote and vote.
From eight in the morning, according to a number of polling officials, till the closing, the citizens of the twin cities thronged the polling stations to vote.
Men and women and the young and old, they all turned up. Some of the young women had their children with them while some helped their sick relatives get to the booth. Their electoral choices varied but most of them were there because they wanted to make their voice heard.
A presiding officer said that by late afternoon about 300 votes had already been cast in her polling station which was the “total number polled here by the end of election day in 2008”.
Though the final numbers and hence the final judgment will have to wait till the Election Commission makes its pronouncement, all eyewitness accounts and anecdotal evidence suggests that Rawalpindi and Islamabad witnessed a higher turnout as had been expected. One woman voter in Pindi refused to reveal her choice though she added that “they were all the same.”
But why are you here?
“Because it is my national obligation,” came the prompt reply.
Mothers and daughters were there together even if they voted for different parties and one brother wheeled in his elder brother who was sitting in a wheel chair.
“We are here to vote PTI because the others have been tried and tested,” said the younger brother.
For a large number, the motivating force was to vote so they could help choose a government that would address their problems – from unemployment to the filth around them to inflation.
And it was not just the PTI voter who hoped for this change; others too voiced the same hope.
An old woman who had tears in her eyes said she had come to vote “because life had become “intolerable” because of the inflation and because her children could not find jobs.
A number of the younger voter wore their political choice – a young mother’s young daughter had on a headband in PTI colours; another wore an outfit the sleeves of which were similarly tri-coloured. And a number of young men donned t-shirts with a lion on them.
Those who voted PPP were there too like the teacher who said she had opted for the party because of the increment in her salary.
The people voted on Saturday and a nation spoke.
To the amazement of polling staff and security personnel, in some polling stations, voters turned up well ahead of the official 8am.
“Two Suzuki-loads of men and women arrived at 7:30am and even before and started demanding the gates be opened,” said the police personnel posted in one of the polling stations in Kirpa area and added: “One old man even asked if they were planning to rig the polls.”
However, there has not been any report of serious exchange of hot words or brawl from any part in Islamabad, not even from the Chirah area, the people of which are traditionally more hot-tempered. The candidates or the parties did provide vehicles to bring voters, but neither the voters nor the drivers acknowledged that they have been hired by someone else.
“The women are my distant relatives,” said a Suzuki driver in Kirpa area, while he was taking a group of women after they cast the vote. But almost half an hour later the same driver in the same vehicle was back with another load of relatives.
In most of the areas the presiding officers said that up to 60 per cent voters came to polling stations by late afternoon, and long queues could be seen in almost all the areas of NA-49.
The service of 8300 also helped voters locate their polling stations in most of the areas, but many people in rural parts faced serious trouble.
The most mismanaged places in this regard were the male and female polling stations in Bari Imam, where a large number of people had to return empty handed after standing in long queues as their names were not in the relevant voters list. “How can we find out their names and satisfy them if they are not in the list,” said presiding officer at one of the female polling stations in Bari Imam. In the garrison city, long queues were witnessed at various polling stations in NA-54, 55 and 56. At some polling stations, the presiding officers told Dawn, the polling staff had resumed their duties at 8am, but first vote was polled after 9am. Majority of the people were seen on roads and streets outside the polling stations. Dozens of people while talking to Dawn said people wanted change as they were fed up with the performance of the previous government. Mohammad Ramzan, a retired government employee, said that he cast his vote for a change as no political party seemed interested in solving the major problems of the people during last five years. Fariha Majeed, a housewife, said that she came to the polling stations to cast vote in favour of those who could save them from electricity loadshedding, she said. Farida Bibi, another housewife, said that she didn’t cast vote in previous elections but these elections were different for them. “We vote for new country where people would able to get the basic facilities,” she said.