ISLAMABAD: In NA-48 and NA-53 constituencies of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, a large number of women thronged the polling stations to poll their votes, hoping to change the fate of the country but simultaneously apprehensive about the transparency of elections.
According to several veteran voters, the turnout in their constituencies was higher compared to previous elections, with an elderly voter terming the response of the youth and the senior citizens ‘commendable’ for their active participation in the polls.
It may be noted that in 2018 polls, the women’s turnout was 47 per cent compared to 56pc of their male counterparts.
There were some administrative problems, however. For instance, reportedly there were no arrangements by the Election Commission of Pakistan to facilitate elderly citizens and some voters had faced problems reaching their designated polling stations, besides sluggish polling pace.
NA-48, NA-53 witness relatively ‘high turnout’ compared to previous polls
At a polling station in Rawalpindi’s NA-53, a 40-year-old woman told Dawn that she had voted for the most suitable person in her constituency, regardless of the political party.
She said that some people in her family had been voting for a specific party but she had decided to change their opinion this time. She added that voter turnout was higher than the past two elections in which she had also cast her votes.
She claimed her family members had been allotted different polling stations even though their permanent address on the national identity cards was the same.
Due to the ‘capricious’ allocation of polling stations, they faced problems in finding the location. She said that if her polling station was far away from her house, she would not have voted then.
A first-time voter Quratulain Tahir at the same polling station was excited about being able to vote. “I am extremely happy to see that even women in wheelchairs are here today. I think it is important to remain hopeful and have faith. I was not expecting to see such a turnout…”
Ms Tahir said she picked the “most appropriate” candidate. She also pointed out that the arrangements were not suitable for senior citizens.
A 63-year-old voter, Fatima Irshad, said that she was there to vote because it was the “basic duty of every citizen to go out and vote”. She said, “…if every individual comes out to vote today, then it can change the fate of this country. I voted for a candidate who has sacrificed a lot for this country, and if the elections are fair, he will win and change things in the country.”
NA-48 in Islamabad
In NA-48, at a polling station set up in the Army Public School, a 58-year-old woman said she had lost hope in all political parties. She claimed, “All of them are corrupt, but I am here for my country, and my country comes above anything; If our faith is strong, we will defend our country.”
She also shared discrepancies in the allocation of polling stations. “My daughter went to her native village alone to cast her vote…even though our permanent addresses are the same. I am just hoping for the best outcome from these elections,” she added.
At this polling station, a 20-year-old voter with her mother was also present to cast her ballot. They found the process a bit slow, but the “sense of the community” prevalent at the site made up for the sluggish pace of voting. They said they did not feel complications in choosing their candidate since there was only one “right candidate”. The girl said, “My entire family is voting for the same candidate. I believe it is a bit of a formality because decisions have already been made, but I still did my part.”
At a different polling station in NA-48, a 62-year-old voter said, “I think this time the voter turnout is higher; especially in my experience, the response is enthusiastic, and participation from senior citizens and young people is commendable.”
Another woman commented, “I am 40, and what made me come out today is that if everyone loses hope, how will we bring change? I have a little daughter with me and have been here for the past few hours. I believe you should play your part so you don’t regret not participating in choosing your leader. I chose the candidate I did because I believe he is the only person who can bring about change…”
According to the voter, he husband’s polling station was “quite far from my station; however, we stand firmly in the face of these problems, and nothing can stop us from bringing about change”.
A 66-year-old woman stated, “I am here for my nation, for the next generation, and for justice. The awareness that a particular leader has given us to vote for is the reason why I have been voting since 2013.”
Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2024