Nearly 24 hours since the polls closed in Pakistan, there is still no clarity on the winner as just a quarter of the votes have been counted. The results were expected to be out by today morning and the unprecedented delay has prompted concerns about the integrity of the elections.
According to Pakistan’s election commission though, it is taking time to count votes as there is an “internet issue”. Zafar Iqbal, special secretary at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), said that polling officers have been asked to release results at the earliest, but they were facing several internet issues.
The poll body’s claim that it would ensure the timely announcement of results without depending on the internet fell flat on its face when the absence of connectivity brought forth a set of unexpected yet familiar challenges, mainly for Presiding Officers at a number of polling stations, who found themselves unable to transmit the final results of their respective stations using the much-touted and homegrown system, the Dawn Newspaper reported.
The delays results came after authorities suspended mobile phone services across the country and at least 16 people were killed and at least 54 were wounded in attacks on polling day. In a statement Friday morning, the Interior Ministry also said a “lack of communication” caused delays in results due to precautionary security measures.
Imran Khan, barred from contesting, faced a crackdown on his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which was blocked from holding rallies and removed from the ballot paper, forcing its candidates to run as independents.
Official results showed that independents backed by PTI have won approximately 46 seats, ahead of Nawaz Sharif‘s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) with 38 seats and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) with 31 seats. A party needs to win 134 seats to form the government independently.
Analysts have highlighted the significance of a timely announcement of results in reducing policy and political uncertainty, particularly as Pakistan grapples with economic challenges and escalating militant violence in a politically divided environment.
The delay in announcing results, a rarity in Pakistani elections, has several impacted financial markets, with Karachi’s stock index and Pakistan’s sovereign bonds experiencing a decline due to the uncertainty.
The delay has also raised concerns among citizens, with some expressing skepticism about the transparency of the electoral process.
“The delaying tactics speak loudly of the results being rigged, and there is no other reason behind the delay,” said Nisar Ahmed, a 45-year-old shop owner.
There could be “no other reason except the results are being tampered with,” added Sadaf Farooqi, a 40-year schoolteacher.
Pakistan is struggling to recover from an economic crisis while it grapples with rising militant violence in a deeply polarised political environment. The next leader will need to navigate a heavy debt load and negotiate a new bailout from the International Monetary Fund. The country’s nine-month bailout program from the IMF, Pakistan’s 23rd since independence in 1947, expires next month.