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Low voters turnout anticipated amid mobile phone service suspension and slow voting process: Journalists

ISLAMABAD: The turnout of voters appeared low in the general elections on Thursday as half of the polling time elapsed, journalists covering polls claimed.

“Voters are present in large numbers at the polling stations but the polling process has been deliberately kept slow,” senior journalist Hamid Mir said in a post on X.

Moments before tens of millions of people headed to polling stations to cast their votes, the caretaker government suspended mobile phone services after the incidents of terrorism in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Millions of voters and citizens experienced internet outages in multiple regions, according to an independent internet monitor.

Real-time network data showed that internet blackouts were in effect in multiple regions of Pakistan in addition to mobile network disruptions, the NetBlocks said in a post on X.

Several journalists and politicians called for the immediate restoration of the two services. Voters at the polling stations also complained of facing communication problems after the government’s decision.

Famous anchorperson Hamid Mir claimed that less than 100 votes were cast in the first four hours of the polling time in polling stations where hundreds of voters were waiting for their turn. Such a slowdown has nothing to do with the internet suspension, he added.

Meanwhile, Dawn editor (Kyber Pakhtunkhwa) Ismail Khan said that the voter turnout across the province averaged nine percent by 11:30 am.

“It may pick up post-lunchtime,” he said.

Senior journalist Syed Talat Hussain shared a graph on X, showing the overall turnout since the elections in 1970.

“So far nationwide the turnout is lower than what has been the trend in the first 4 hours,” he said and added that urban centers were reporting 10 percent lower than the usual average.

He was hopeful that the process would pick up momentum in the second half. But he warned that if it did not turn out then the situation might mirror that of 1997.

The polling staff and material were late in many constituencies, causing a delay in the voting process. Reporters in Hyderabad, Sukkur, and Jacobabad blamed the internet for the low turnout, but they hoped voters would arrive in the second half.

February 8 is a public holiday in Pakistan but many people fear rigging and disturbance in the law and order situation after terrorist attacks in the two provinces and verdicts of cases against former prime minister Imran Khan.

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I am an experienced writer, analyst, and author. My exposure in English journalism spans more than 28 years. In the past, I have been working with daily The Muslim (Lahore Bureau), daily Business Recorder (Lahore/Islamabad Bureaus), Daily Times, Islamabad, daily The Nation (Lahore and Karachi). With daily The Nation, I have served as Resident Editor, Karachi. Since 2009, I have been working as a Freelance Writer/Editor for American organizations.

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