PESHAWAR: With a festive feel in the air, residents of provincial capital all turned out in their hundreds on Wednesday and braved long queues in the warm weather to cast their votes in the general elections.
The city was adorned with colourful flags, banners. Crowds of voters and party workers had converged at election camps early in the morning as workers explained to voters the voting process, their polling booth numbers and the candidates in the running for each seat.
“We still have the hope that we will be able to see a change,” said Pervez Khan, a 55-year-old school teacher who had queued up outside a polling station in Nothia.
Asked who did he intend to vote for, Pervez said he would vote for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and bring them back into power. He noted that the party had done a lot for the city, something which past governments had failed to achieve.
He hoped that the party will now bring a durable peace.
“What deterred the people the most, even from the voting, was the bomb attacks just days before the elections,” he said, pointing to the attack on Awami National Party’s (ANP) Haroon Bilour on July 10 which left the PK-78 candidate and 21 others dead.
Nothia is located just four kilometres from Yakatoot where Bilour was martyred just 15 days ago.
“The unprofessional statement of deputy commissioner of the city, which was given wide coverage, had further deterred us,” conceded Pervez, as he referred to the statement issued on the eve of elections that they had arranged for 1,000 shrouds while the hospitals had been told to remain alert.
While speaking to The Express Tribune, his family called, informing him of a bombing in Balochistan and was urged to return home immediately.
While voters said they were still upset over the attack on Bilour, they came out to cast their ballots nonetheless.
Women voters, most of them wearing burqas, could be seen queued up outside polling stations.
Among them was Zarina Bibi, who had come to cast her ballot. Her turn finally came after waiting for an hour in the scorching heat.
“It is our national duty to vote,” Zarina said, adding, “All women should be encouraged [to vote]. In fact, they want to vote, but they have not been encouraged and helped as a majority are uneducated.”
She expressed gratitude to the workers of different political party’s who worked all day to facilitate women voters in travelling from their homes to polling stations.
Zarina admitted that it could influence their voting but then they, especially the elderly, were more than happy with it.
She said that her main demand from the incoming government was to work for peace and remove the environment of fear and generate jobs for the youth.
A young party worker from the city centre said that he was planning to vote for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and was also urging others to vote for him.
“Because, I trust him more than the others,” he claimed when asked about his motivations to vote for the cricketer-turned-politician.
“We are going to win it [elections] and change the fate of our country,” he said.
The young worker said that he had been living and working abroad for the past five years and had largely missed the work undertaken by the PTI in the province, but he stated that it was only the PTI which could create jobs for youngsters like him.
“At last, we’re going to see justice done. Our country will now offer opportunities for everyone,” said 22-year-old Rameez. The youngster had suffered a broken leg in a traffic accident but it did not stop him from visiting his assigned polling station, albeit with some help from his friends.
Donning the red caps traditional of the Awami National Party (ANP) embossed with the slogan ‘Bacha Khani Pakar Da’, he said that the “ANP, especially the Bilour family, have suffered a lot for justice. They deserve our votes.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2018.