LAHORE, Pakistan: Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party led polls in the country’s general election, as rival parties claimed widespread irregularities and alleged coercion of their candidates by the military.
In the eastern city of Lahore, capital of Punjab province and the country’s political heartland, PTI supporters rejoiced, waving flags and raising party slogans late into the night on Wednesday, as the party celebrated what it considered a sweeping win across the country’s 272 National Assembly constituencies.
See our Election’18 feed: Pakistan Election 2018
While final results are expected in the coming hours, initial outcomes suggested the PTI would emerge as the largest single party in the national government.
The party’s rivals, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), both raised concerns about the procedure through which results were issued, alleging their polling agents were not allowed to verify vote counts, as is mandated by law.
“We completely reject this result, completely,” said Shehbaz Sharif, leader of the incumbent PML-N party, at a late night press conference in Lahore. “We will not tolerate this, and the people will use everything in their power to regain their rights. This is clear rigging, and we do not accept these results.”
The PPP, led by young scion Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, also alleged similar irregularities occurred in constituencies in its stronghold of Sindh province.
Both parties said they would announce their course of action on Thursday, while PTI dismissed accusations of malfeasance.
More than a 105 million Pakistanis were eligible to vote in the general election, which saw thousands of candidates competing for 272 seats in the lower house of parliament, as well as 577 provincial assembly seats.
The ruling PML-N was dealt several blows in the run-up to the polls, seeing dozens of defections, as well as the conviction and arrest of its former chief, Nawaz Sharif, for corruption earlier this month.
Punjab province, the country’s most populous, holds 141 of the country’s 272 directly elected seats, and the key to forming the government.
As the clock wound down to the close of voting, dozens of women crowded the desk of an election official at a polling station located within the historic Delhi Gate in Lahore.
The official, an aged retired civil servant, seemed to be having trouble reading their documents. Nearby, an army soldier – one of more than 371,000 deployed for these polls – watched on.
“Nawaz Sharif’s only crime is to have done so much for the city of Lahore,” shouted Rehana Kausar, 60, who has lived in the neighbourhood her entire life.
Despite Kausar complaining of polling delays at her station, she was confident the PML-N – which has dominated seats in Punjab over the last three decades – would hold onto its political heartland.
Elsewhere, anger with the alleged conspiracy to unseat the PML-N was apparent among some voters.
“Now the army, the intelligence agencies and the judiciary are taking sides,” said PML-N voter Tariq Ateeq Sheikh, 50, a property dealer in Lahore’s Walton neighbourhood.
“They’ve become touts for the PTI.”
PML-N alleges the country’s powerful military – which has ruled Pakistan for roughly half of its 70-year history and has often sparred with Sharif over control of security and foreign policy – is behind a campaign that tilted the electoral playing field in favour of Khan’s PTI.
But the PML-N was dealt several blows in the run-up to the polls. Sharif was convicted by an anti-corruption court and returned to the country to offer himself for arrest, alongside his daughter Maryam, on July 13.
This left many voters disillusioned and unwilling to vote for Sharif.
“I was going to vote for Nawaz Sharif, but the way that he lied on the floor of the house, that convinced me that I couldn’t vote for him,” said Ahmed Ali Malik, a retired banker who flew in from Manchester to vote at Lahore’s Delhi Gate.
Independence Day: Sale of Kashmiri flags on the rise
Sale of Kashmiri flags, badges and other decoration items have gained impetus ahead of Independence Day after the federal government had announced to observe August 14 as Kashmir Solidarity Day.
MUZAFFARABAD, Azad Kashmir/KARACHI, Pakistan: Sale of Kashmiri flags, badges and other decoration items have gained impetus ahead of Independence Day after the federal government had announced to observe August 14 as Kashmir Solidarity Day, ARY News reported on Thursday.
As marking of 73rd Independence Day is right around the corner, the preparations have gained momentum as a huge rush of people were seen at different stalls of Kashmiri flags, national flags buntings, badges, set up by vendors in different areas of Karachi.
READ MORE: Top 10 schools of Pakistan (2018-19)
All Karachi Tajir Ittehad Chairman Ateeq Meer said that people are very enthusiastic and passionate for purchasing celebratory items to mark Independence Day.
It must be noted that government has decided to observe Independence Day; 14 August, as Kashmir Solidarity Day and 15th of this month as Black Day to express harmony and solidarity with Kashmiris in their recent plight caused by the Indian government.
The national flag will fly half-mast on 15th of this month. A notification to this effect has been issued by the Ministry of Interior.
Maryam’s interview “stopped forcefully:” Nadeem Malik
An interview of Maryam Nawaz Sharif, a vice president of the PML-N, was “forcefully” taken off air soon after it was run, it was reported on Thursday.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: An interview of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif was taken off air forcefully seconds after it started.
“Just came to know Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s interview has been stopped forcefully just [a] few minutes after it started live,” tweeted show host Nadeem Malik.
Hum News, the channel on which the interview was aired for a few brief moments, released a statement shortly after the incident, saying: “Hum News believes in a free and responsible media. Protecting freedom of expression is one of our core values. At the same time, we stand for the respect and dignity of [the] judiciary in line with our ethical values and the Constitution.”
The development comes days after AbbTakk TV, 24 News, and Capital TV all had their broadcasts cut after screening a press conference by Maryam Nawaz.
Authorities say the three channels were unavailable due to “technical issues”, but Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a global media watchdog, described the outage as an act of “brazen censorship”.
It slammed the local authorities over the removal of three television channels from the country’s airwaves, saying the move was “indicative of disturbing dictatorial tendencies” as pressure mounts on journalists in Pakistan.
Maryam is the daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif — who is currently behind bars for corruption — and a recent press conference she hosted featured a judge reportedly claiming he had been blackmailed into convicting the former premier.
The move came as Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration vowed to block any media coverage and interviews of politicians “who are convicts and under trial”.
Earlier this month, Geo News TV abruptly took an interview with former president Asif Ali Zardari off air shortly after it began.
Several dead and dozens injured in Pakistan train collision
A collision between a passenger train and a stationary freight train near the central town of Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan has killed at least 10 people, with more than 70 others injured, according to police and hospital officials.
RAHIM YAR KHAN, Pakistan: A collision between a passenger train and a stationary freight train near the central town of Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan has killed at least 10 people, with more than 70 others injured, according to police and hospital officials.
The incident on Thursday took place at the Walhar railway station, located about 35km south of Rahim Yar Khan.
“The Akbar Express [passenger train] going from Bahawalpur to Quetta hit a freight train that was parked there at 7.40am,” a local police official told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.
Senior police official Umar Salamat told local media the collision took place because the passenger train was diverted onto the incorrect track at the station, hitting the parked freight train.
Rescue operations were under way at the collision site, with workers using equipment to get to some of those trapped in the train wreckage, local media reported.
The injured were taken to a nearby government hospital and to a more advanced facility in Rahim Yar Khan, hospital officials said.
Nine of the dead were taken to the government hospital, with more than 60 people injured in the wreck also treated there, Liaquat Chohan, a senior hospital official, told Al Jazeera.
“The injuries were of multiple types – many had fractures, others had bleeding wounds. Some were crushed under objects,” he said.
At least one dead body was also taken to the Sheikh Zayed hospital in Rahim Yar Khan, where 11 of those wounded in the accident were being treated, hospital official Ilyas Ahmer told Al Jazeera.
“One person’s leg was cut off [in the collision], and another is having serious chest surgery,” he said.
Pakistan’s aging railway network carries both passengers and goods across the country, but suffers periodic derailments and other accidents due to aging infrastructure.
A major Chinese investment in the country is seeking to upgrade the main railway line that connects the length of the country, raising speeds and safety standards.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his condolences for those who were killed and injured, and ordered Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad to speed up work on the country’s rail infrastructure.
“Have asked Railways Minister to take emergency steps to counter decades of neglect of railway infrastructure & ensure safety standards,” Khan tweeted after the accident.