Vote count underway after polling ends for Pakistan by-polls in 21 constituencies

In this file photo, taken on February 8, 2024, polling staff count ballots after the end of the voting at a polling station during a general election, in Hyderabad. (REUTERS/File)
Short Url
Updated 21 April 2024

Vote count underway after polling ends for Pakistan by-polls in 21 constituencies

  • The by-elections were held on seats vacated by candidates or in constituencies where election had been postponed in Feb.
  • Polling began at 8am and continued till 5pm, with mobile services suspended in parts of Punjab and Balochistan provinces

ISLAMABAD: The vote count was underway after Pakistan held by-elections in 21 national and provincial assembly constituencies on Sunday, Pakistani state media reported, amid suspension of mobile phone networks in parts of Punjab and Balochistan provinces.
The by-polls were the first major electoral exercise since the Feb. 8 national election in Pakistan, which were marred by a nationwide mobile network outage and result delays, leading to accusations that the vote was rigged and drawing concern from rights groups and foreign governments.
Polling began at 8am and continued till 5pm for five National Assembly seats, 12 Punjab Assembly seats, and two seats each in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan assemblies. They were left vacant due to postponement of polls in Feb. or were vacated by lawmakers, who won multiple seats.
“The Election Commission of Pakistan has established the Election Monitoring Control Room at its secretariat in Islamabad to monitor the by-elections being held in different parts of the country,” the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported, adding the control room would remain operational till the culmination of the exercise.
On Saturday, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), which regulates Internet in the country, said the decision to keep cellular services suspended in specific districts of Punjab and Balochistan on April 21-22 was taken on the directions of the interior ministry.
“This decision has been taken to safeguard the integrity and security of the electoral process,” the regulator said in a statement.
Reacting to the PTA’s announcement on Saturday, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) opposition party, led by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan, said the suspension of mobile phone services in districts where by-polls were being held was “unconstitutional and illegal.”
“The Internet shutdown is unconstitutional, illegal and shameful, and a plan to rig the results,” it said.
The federal government authorized the deployment of civil armed forces and Pakistan Army to assist the ECP in peaceful conduct of by-polls.
In its code of conduct, the ECP asked troops not to respond on their own to “an apparent irregularity” outside a polling station and bring the matter to the knowledge of the presiding officer for any necessary legal action.
The security forces were also directed not to “interfere in the counting process in any manner” and perform their duty outside the polling stations diligently, so that the counting process could be completed in a peaceful manner.

Pakistan PM expresses sorrow as deadly accident kills 11 of a family

Updated 6 sec ago

Pakistan PM expresses sorrow as deadly accident kills 11 of a family

  • Deadly accident occurred on Saturday when passenger van collided with truck on Muzaffargarh-Mianwali Highway 
  • PM wishes speedy recovery for injured, directs authorities to provide “immediate medical treatment” to them

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed deep sorrow and grief over an accident this week that killed 11 of a family and injured 10 others, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported on Sunday. 

The incident took place on the Muzaffargarh-Mianwali Highway on Saturday when a passenger van en route to Multan from Bhakkar collided with a truck. The accident resulted in the deaths of five men, three women and three children. 

All 11 deceased were members of the same family, rescue officials confirmed, adding that they were traveling to visit relatives when the accident occurred. 

“Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has expressed his deep grief and sorrow over the deaths of eleven members of a family in a traffic mishap on Muzaffargarh-Mianwali Highway,” APP said. 

“The prime minister also wished speedy recovery of the injured and directed for the provision of immediate medical treatment to them.”

Road accidents are common in Pakistan, where traffic rules are rarely followed and roads, particularly in many rural areas, are in poor condition. In the mountainous Gilgit-Baltistan region, road tragedies are daily news. 

Ten fan parks to broadcast iconic India-Pakistan T20 World Cup clash— ICC 

Updated 22 min 31 sec ago

Ten fan parks to broadcast iconic India-Pakistan T20 World Cup clash— ICC 

  • Fan parks in New York, Birmingham, Rawalpindi, New Delhi and South Africa to broadcast India-Pakistan match on June 9
  • Political tensions between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan make their cricket rivalry one of sports’ fiercest ones 

ISLAMABAD: Cricket fans in India, Pakistan, the United States and South Africa would be able to enjoy the iconic India-Pakistan T20 World Cup clash on June 9 in ten different fan parks in their countries, the International Cricket Council (ICC) said this week. 

The ICC has announced that this year’s World Cup matches will be broadcast in fan parks where people will watch the action live on huge screens with live entertainment including DJs, food and drink outlets, cricket ambassadors and family activities. In total, 23 matches will be shown across 16 fan parks in five countries next month. 

Political tensions between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan make their cricket matches a spectacle to watch for millions of fans across the globe. Diplomatic rows between the two countries mean they only play each other in other countries and only at international tournaments. Both haven’t played each other in a bilateral series since several years. 

Pakistan captain Babar Azam will lead his side against Rohit Sharma’s India on June 9 in New York as both Group A teams lock horns in the ICC T20 World Cup fixture. The match will be broadcast in several fan parks across the world, the ICC said. 

“Ten different fan parks will show the Group A game between India and Pakistan, including Cedar Creek Park, Seaford, New York hosted by Nassau County, the Indira Gandhi Indoor Arena in New Delhi, India and Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium in Pakistan,” the ICC said in a statement on Saturday. 

In New York City, the Oculus World Trade Center is one of the standout venues, with the fan park showing 18 matches on 10 different dates, including the highly anticipated final on June 29.

“We are thrilled to be able to bring communities together through broadcasting the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 in a record number of fan parks,” ICC Head of Events Chris Tetley said in a statement. 

“These parks are designed to make the sport more accessible and enjoyable, allowing fans of all ages to experience a T20 World Cup like never before,” Tetley added.

Pakistan beat India by 10 wickets during their T20 World Cup clash in 2021 but the blue shirts exacted revenge on their traditional rivals next year, beating Pakistan by four wickets courtesy of a fighting half-century by former Indian skipper Virat Kohli. 

Pakistan reports third polio case of 2024 from southwestern Balochistan province

Updated 26 May 2024

Pakistan reports third polio case of 2024 from southwestern Balochistan province

  • Virus detected in stool samples from child in southwestern Killa Abdullah district, says state media 
  • Pakistan and Afghanistan remain only two countries in the world where polio remains endemic

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities reported the third poliovirus case of the current year on Saturday, state-run media reported, as Islamabad struggles to contain the crippling disease despite nationwide vaccination and awareness campaigns. 

The latest polio case was reported from Pakistan’s southwestern Killa Abdullah district on Saturday, the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. The virus was detected in stool samples collected from a child in the Darozai union council of Killa Abdullah district, the report said, adding that he had developed symptoms of paralysis on April 20.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where the poliovirus, which causes paralysis and can be a life-threatening disease, is endemic.

“It is incredibly tragic that another child has been affected by polio this year in Balochistan,” Dr. Malik Mukhtar Ahmed Bharath, coordinator to the prime minister on national health services, said. 

Dr. Bharath said polio is a terrible disease that affects not only the life of the child but their family as well. He said the government was bringing vaccines to the citizens’ doorsteps, urging them to avail the opportunity. 

“I urge families to understand the risk this disease poses to children and make sure that they vaccinate all their children under the age of five when the polio worker shows up to their homes,” he said. 

This is the third polio case of the year reported from Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province and the first reported from Killa Abdullah after three years.

Last year, six polio cases were reported in the country which included four from the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province and two from the southern port city of Karachi.

Pakistan’s efforts to contain polio have often been met with opposition, especially in KP, where militants have carried out attacks against vaccinators and security teams guarding them. 

Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a plot by Western outsiders to sterilize Pakistan’s population.

Pakistani masses’ doubts regarding polio campaigns were exacerbated in 2011 when the US Central Intelligence Agency set up a fake hepatitis vaccination program to gather intelligence on former Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. 

Pakistani students praise teachers, landlords for ‘timely’ rescue during Kyrgyzstan mob violence

Updated 26 May 2024

Pakistani students praise teachers, landlords for ‘timely’ rescue during Kyrgyzstan mob violence

  • Teachers stayed with students in hostels to protect them from rioters while landlords took many to safety
  • Many students say they will resume their studies in Bishkek after their semester break ends in September

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani students evacuated from Kyrgyzstan after recent riots and violence against foreign nationals on Saturday lauded “tremendous and timely” support from their teachers and landlords, saying that they rescued and saved their lives.
Last week, violent riots erupted in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, following the emergence of online videos showing a brawl between local and Egyptian students of medical sciences. The mobs mostly targeted the hostels of medical universities and private lodges of international students, including Pakistanis, in the city.
Around 10,000 Pakistani students are enrolled in different institutes in Kyrgyzstan and nearly 6,000 of them were studying in Bishkek, according to Pakistan’s diplomatic mission in the Central Asian country. The Pakistan government has evacuated thousands of students stranded in Bishkek by arranging special flights following the riots.
“We are alive today due to tremendous, effective and timely support of our teachers and landlords shortly after the violence,” Bilal Ahmad, a fourth-year medical student from Vehari district in Punjab province, told Arab News on phone. “Our teachers stayed with us in the hostel the whole night to protect us from the mob.”
Ahmad said when the situation normalized in Bishkek, local elders and officials apologized to the students for the violence. “They shared their mobile numbers with us to call them in any emergency,” he added.
Social media platforms were abuzz with different videos and photos showing the mob attacks against the international students in Bishkek. The Kyrgyz miscreants barged into hostels to attack foreign students without discrimination. Five Pakistani students were injured as a result, according to the Pakistan embassy, one of them seriously.
“We locked our doors and windows and reinforced them with cupboards, tables and chairs to prevent the miscreants from entering,” Asadullah Khan, a third-year medical student from Quetta, told Arab News.
“We switched off lights of our rooms and prayed to Allah … We called our landlord and she immediately responded and rescued us from there,” he said, adding that she took around nine students to her residence in her own car on the gloomy night.
Khan said that members of local communities, teachers and other university staff had cooperated with the students in the difficult time. “They brought us food, water and biscuits and stood by us against their own people,” he continued.
He also informed the local community and teachers had widely circulated audio and video messages of apology to international students, including Pakistanis, a day after the violence, promising to do everything to hold all the criminals accountable.
Khan said his parents were worried about his safety, fearing that they may not let him resume his studies in Bishkek after the semester break ended in September.
“My parents are pushing me to migrate to a local medical college in Pakistan to complete my studies,” he added. “I have invested my three years and a lot of money, so let’s see when the education resumes.”
Some students said the situation was completely under control in Bishkek days after the violence, as the local police and paramilitary took charge of the security of hostels and private apartments where international students were residing.
“I will go back to resume my studies since I can’t waste my time,” Anjum Rasheed, a final year medical student from Peshawar, told Arab News. “The days of the violence are over now, and local Kyrgyz community has repeatedly apologized to the students for the unfortunate incident.”
“Our teachers and other staff of the university had been extremely cooperative during the mob attack, and there is no reason for us to quit the studies,” he said, adding that one of his teachers rescued him from the hostel and took him to a shelter arranged by a human rights organization in the city.
He also noted that a local family transported him with a couple of other students to the airport for their flight back to Pakistan.

Peshawar residents, led by PTI lawmaker, storm grid station to restore power amid heatwave

Updated 25 May 2024

Peshawar residents, led by PTI lawmaker, storm grid station to restore power amid heatwave

  • The electric supply company says the protesters ‘forcibly switched on nine high-loss feeders’ in the area
  • It mentions losses due to power-theft, non-payment of dues, lodges police complaint against the lawmaker

ISLAMABAD: Residents of Peshawar in Pakistan’s northwest, led by a provincial lawmaker from former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, stormed a grid station on Saturday and restored electricity themselves to protest prolonged power cuts amid scorching heat.
Power outages are not uncommon in Pakistan during the summer months when the demand on the national grid spikes sharply due to the widespread use of air conditioners and desert coolers. These seasonal surges often lead to prolonged power outages, which fuel public discontent, particularly during the intense heatwaves that have swept across Pakistan in recent years.
While the blackouts can sometimes be part of the official load management strategy, Pakistani authorities have also pointed to power theft in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as a significant issue, occasionally leading to complete shutdowns of electricity.
“If our electricity is cut off, everyone’s electricity will be cut off,” Pakistan’s Geo TV quoted the PTI lawmaker Fazal Elahi as saying after the incident.
The Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) said Elahi and other protesters entered the grid station and “forcibly switched on nine high-loss feeders” in the area.
“Losses due to power theft and non-payment of dues on these feeders are more than 80 percent,” it added.
Local media also reported that PESCO had filed a police complaint against the PTI lawmaker, who said protesters were only demanding their rights.