Nearly 106 million people are registered to vote for members of the lower house of parliament and four provincial assemblies.
According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), 3,459 candidates are contesting for 272 general seats of the National Assembly, while 8,396 candidates are running for 577 general seats of the four provincial assemblies – Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The voting started at 8 AM local time on more than 85,000 polling stations. The counting of votes will be done on the spot soon after the conclusion of the polling process at 6 PM and results will be announced within 24 hours.
More than 30 political parties have fielded their candidates for the elections.
The opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, is looking to unseat the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which was formally led by the now jailed ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is also in the race. Shahbaz Sharif, the president of the PML-N who is hoping to become the next PM of Pakistan, was among the first people to cast his vote in Lahore.
For a smooth polling process, the ECP has deployed around 1.6 million staff at polling stations across the country. About 4,49,465 policemen and over 3,70,000 military personnel have been deployed for security.
In a special message on Wednesday, Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Sardar Raza Khan urged voters to fulfil their national duty of casting the ballot. A public holiday has been declared across the country on Wednesday in order to facilitate the voting process.
Pakistan’s National Assembly comprises a total of 342 members, of which 272 will be directly elected today whereas the rest of 60 seats reserved for women and 10 for religious minorities are selected later through proportional representation among parties with more than five per cent of the vote. A party can only form the government if it manages to clinch 172 seats in total.
Despite a massive electoral exercise, there is a big question if the elections would bring much needed political and economic stability in the country.