Update 3:33 p.m.: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has declared victory despite not knowing the official results yet. Sharif was ahead in 115 of 272 National assembly seats at last count:
PAKISTAN’S SHARIF SAYS HIS PARTY CLEAR WINNER IN ELECTION, SAYS HOPES FOR MAJORITY TO AVOID COALITION #breaking— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) May 11, 2013
Original: Despite violence from the Taliban, citizens in Pakistan turned out in huge numbers on Saturday to vote in the country's historic first ever democratic elections. Early numbers estimate a voter turnout as high as 60 percent of the over 86 million people eligible to vote. With the first results from polls starting to roll in, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and former cricket star Imran Khan appear to be in the lead. But official results won't be known until sometime on Sunday.
The Taliban delivered on their promises to attack polling stations in an effort to keep Pakistani citizens from turning out on Saturday. The port city of Karachi saw one of the deadliest attacks after twin bombings near polling stations killed 11 people and injured 37 others. Eight people died in shootouts near polling stations in the southwest province of Baluchistan. In one Taliban stronghold, there were reports saying women were warned not to leave the house on Saturday by local mosques. A bomb injured eight women outside a polling station in Peshawar. This is all on top of the pre-election violence that injured more than 100 people.
Things could have been much worse, though. Pakistan deployed 600,000 security officers across the country to protect voters turning out to polling stations. "For most part, the voting has been taking place according to plan," Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder told the news agency from Peshawar.
This is the first time in Pakistan's 68 year history that a civilian government has completed a five year term and handed the government over in an election. The image of transparent democracy took a hit on Friday when the country abruptly ordered the expulsion of veteran Pakistan-based reporter and The New York Times' Islamabad bureau chief Declan Walsh for participating in "undesirable activities." The Times' Jill Abramson wrote a strongly worded letter demanding more information from the government but so far has received little response. The Times' editorial board also chastised the government in Saturday's paper.
Hopefully things will wrap up peacefully and without major scandal souring the potentially historic election. There were some irregularities reported in Karachi, the site of the most deadly bombing, that could require a mulligan on voting in the region. "We have been unable to carry out free and fair elections in Karachi," Pakistan's election commission said. They were forced to extend voting hours there after, among other things, a man was seen trying to stuff a ballot box before other voters screamed for him to be ejected from a polling station. But that is not expected to impede on the election results process. It appears, for now, that it's smooth sailing ahead.