Several suicide bombers struck candidates and campaign events before the voting, killing more than 150 people.
This will be only the second time in Pakistan’s 70-year history that power will be transferred from one civilian government to another. Clearly that is proving more complicated than many people expected.
More Pakistani women than ever were registered to vote this time around. But in one village near Peshawar, in the north, tribal elders blocked hundreds of women from voting on Wednesday. They said the matter was simple: Women should never leave the house.
This could have been an occasion for Pakistanis to celebrate their democracy. Instead, the campaign has been marred by a series of attacks on candidates and campaign rallies, suppression of the news media, accusations of manipulation by the military and a rise in extreme Islamist candidates.
The military has ruled Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country, through various coups for nearly half the country’s history since it gained independence in 1947. Even during civilian rule, the country’s generals have wielded enormous power, setting the agenda for the country’s foreign and security policies and tolerance of extremist groups — including the Afghan Taliban in its fight against the United States-backed government in Afghanistan next door.
The leader of what had been the pre-eminent party, Nawaz Sharif, a three-time prime minister, was jailed by an anticorruption court less than two weeks before the elections.
In July 2017, Supreme Court justices ousted Mr. Sharif from office in a ruling that was widely seen as having been delivered under pressure from the army. At the same time, many members of Mr. Sharif’s party have deserted him and maybe not by choice. Evidence is mounting that the security services threatened or blackmailed them.
His party, known by its initials P.M.L.-N, now led by his brother, Shehbaz, remained in second place behind Mr. Khan’s party, the Pakistan Movement for Justice.
Orignially published in NYT.