WILL ARMY SWAY PAKISTAN VOTERS?


ELECTION PREPARATION: Pakistani
soldiers patrol outside a voting material
distribution centre in Lahore on Tuesday
(24); and (inset) Imran Khan, head of the
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)
ELECTION PREPARATION: Pakistani soldiers patrol outside a voting material distribution centre in Lahore on Tuesday (24); and (inset) Imran Khan, head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)

Military deployed as Imran Khan eyes power  VOTERS in Pakistan were set to cast their ballots on Wednesday (25) while the military fanned out across the country as the south Asian nation elects a new prime minister this week. The contest has largely been distilled to a two-party fight between jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s incumbent Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz party (PML-N), and cricket legend Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Nearly 106 million Pakistanis, including more than 19 million new voters, will choose a successor to the PML-N, which took power in 2013 and hopes for a new mandate under leader Shahbaz Sharif. A third choice, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari – son of slain prime min­ister Benazir Bhutto – could become kingmakers, forming a coalition with the winner. Armed soldiers watched closely as election offi­cials in the capital Islamabad on Tuesday (24) dis­tributed ballot boxes and voting materials to polling stations across the city. The military has stationed more than 370,000 per­sonnel nationwide to ensure the vote goes smoothly – the largest such deployment in Pakistan’s history on an election day. It has said the soldiers will work with local law enforcement to ensure “a safe and se­cure environment” for voting. An additional 450,000 po­lice were also assigned to provide security, accord­ing to election officials. The mammoth de­ployment, coupled with a recent decision by elec­tion authorities to grant military officers broad pow­ers inside polling centres, has stirred fears of possible manipulation. The Election Com­mission of Pakistan (ECP) said military officers would be given magisterial powers, effectively making them judge and jury to punish individuals for illegal acts committed inside polling stations. Last week, Sherry Rehman – opposition leader in the Senate, the parliament’s upper house – said the move could lead to potential conflicts and…

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