PESHAWAR, May 11: Defying Taliban’s threats, people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa made beelines to polling stations in urban and rural parts of the province alike and recorded an unprecedented high voter turnout in Saturday’s election.
Two extraordinary factors acted in parallel to help Khyber Pakhtunkhwa put up an impressive show.
Women voters turned up in overwhelming numbers to polling stations in several Khyber Pakhtunkhwa districts, casting votes in many areas for the first time. The other factor that resulted into a higher voter turnout was the phenomenal presence of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf’s supporters in Peshawar, Nowshera, Mardan, and several other districts. A large number of voters started turning into polling stations to cast their vote right at the outset of the polling time. The heavy rush was not limited only to male polling stations as female voters took it to the polling stations right from early polling hours on Saturday.
In an unusual phenomenon in Peshawar’s several urban and semi-urban centres, families and groups of female voters turned into polling stations to cast votes. Similarly, a large number of young PTI supporters remained present in their party’s polling camps outside polling stations in several Peshawar constituencies, giving festive look to the event.
They maintained their presence felt on the provincial capital’s roads for most part of the day. The PTI supporters driving cars and riding motorbikes with party flags dominated the city roads.
Reports from other Khyber Pakhtunkhwa districts also suggested a considerable increase in voter turnout this time round compared to the previous elections.
Haripur district, according to local journalists, saw a sharp increase in the number of voters who visited polling stations to poll their votes. The city, according to a resident, recorded hectic polling day activities with long lines of voters seen at several areas with male and female voters turning in great numbers to cast votes.
In Mansehra, however, according to our local correspondent, the turnout did not appear to be much different than the previous elections. According to him, Mansehra city worn subdued look, as voter turnout remained quite low compared to the number of registered voters.
The closely fought electoral battle between Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazal’s chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians’ Waqar Ahmed for Dera Ismail Khan’s lone National Assembly constituency attracted a large number of voters, recording improvement in the voter turnout compared to the previous elections.
PTI’s presence was felt more than other political parties in Dera Ismail Khan city from where its candidate fought hard against the JUI-F and PPPP.
The PTI youth factor played a major role in Dera Ismail Khan and Peshawar as well with youth cheering about their candidates’ expected good performance at the end of the day.
“We want change because we need opportunities to make a good start in our practical life,” said a PTI youth supporter at Peshawar. Another PTI voter said he came from abroad only to cast his vote in favour of Imran Khan’s candidate.
Supporters of PPP and Awami National Party were seen in good numbers in the inner city neighbourhoods where the two parties have had strong support up till now.
Despite an Election Commission of Pakistan’s ban on the provision of transport by candidates for bringing voters to polling stations several political parties, including PTI, PPPP, ANP, JI and JUI-F, arranged vans to facilitate their voters, transporting them to polling stations.