Pakistan prepares for election day as campaigning takes mandatory pause

According to election rules, the campaigning would end at the stroke of midnight between February 6 and 7.

Islamabad: Pakistan’s electioneering would end Tuesday night for a mandatory cool-down period ahead of the February 8 polls to let the voters think deeply before exercising their franchise for their favourite candidates at the national and provincial legislatures.

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According to election rules, the campaigning would end at the stroke of midnight between February 6 and 7, meaning no political rally is allowed and candidates can only use closed-door meetings and face-to-face contact with the voters. As per the rules, those violating the law may face imprisonment of up to two years.

Ahead of the mandatory moratorium, all major parties have plans for using the last day to hold rallies across the country with top leaders like Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Shehbaz Sharif, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Asif Ali Zardari, Maulana Fazlur Reham and other addressing rallies in various cities.

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The triangular contest involves the Pakistan Muslims League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of imprisoned Imran Khan. Due to the absence of former prime minister Khan, who is in jail after being convicted of corruption charges, the PTI’s fate is difficult to gauge at this point but it may still stage an upset.

But several smaller parties with sizeable vote banks, including the Mutahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl, the Awami National Party, the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam, the Balochistan National Party are also poised to make gains and play a role in case no major winner emerges.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced that it had delivered more than 260 million ballot papers across the country despite time constraints and weather-related challenges. Delivery of ballot papers has started to the respective returning officers, who have been tasked with preparing packets for delivery to the concerned presiding officers a day before polling.

The caretaker information minister, Murtaza Solangi, launched an online platform to facilitate and address media complaints during the elections. Addressing the launch event, he said the application would be accessible through any browser and had been launched for the convenience of local and international journalists and media persons.

A large number of foreign journalists and observers have arrived in Pakistan to monitor and cover the election exercise. The application will help journalists lodge complaints related to coverage of election activities quickly and efficiently through their mobiles, laptops or other devices.

The elections are set to be held on February 8 and polling would start at 8:00 am and would continue non-stop until 5:00 pm. Elaborate security measures have been taken, including the deployment of regular army troops, to maintain peace.

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