Pakistan counts votes in poll hit by violence and suspended mobile services


The move to suspend mobile networks sparked criticism from leaders of opposition parties, with the Pakistan Peoples Party’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 35-year-old son of assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto, calling for its “immediate restoration”.

Amnesty International called it “a blunt attack on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly”.

Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja said the decision on mobile networks was made by “law and order agencies” following Wednesday’s violence and the commission would not interfere.

There was no word on when the networks would be restored.

Jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, in a post on X, called on people to remove passwords from their personal Wi-Fi accounts “so anyone in the vicinity” could have internet access.

Election officials said they received several complaints from people who were unable to find their polling stations because of the internet shutdown.

“The communication with voters and others is very difficult … we are facing so many problems due to the internet closure,” said 50-year-old Mehmood Chaudry, a school teacher who cast his vote in the city of Rawalpindi.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, considered by many analysts to be the front-runner, dismissed talk of an unclear result and emphasised the need for a “clear majority”.

“Don’t talk about a coalition government. It is very important for a government to get a clear majority … It should not be relying on others,” he told reporters after casting his vote in the eastern city of Lahore.

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