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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 18:53 GMT 19:53 UK
Pakistan voters 'want change'
Queue of voters
There are mixed feeling about the elections

"I have come to change the political system."

So determined was the veiled young woman to play her part in consigning the traditional political ways of Pakistan to history that she was one of the first to vote in the women's booth at an Islamabad polling station.

The trouble was, if her hopes are to be fulfilled, not that many followed her - at least not in the first few hours of voting.

Pervez Musharraf
Musharraf described the elections as a historic juncture for Pakistan
She was happy enough for the military to continue to play a limited role in politics.

How much of a role they will in fact play once a civilian government has been established is one of the most crucial issues of the return to democracy that is now supposedly under way in Pakistan.

Another is the relationship between General Pervez Musharraf, who continues as president, and his new prime minister and the civilian government.

Anti-military

The young woman seemed to be in a minority among the early voters.

A young man, in baseball cap and trainers, arrived saying he would be voting for the alliance of Islamic religious parties which has sought to capitalise on an undercurrent of anti-Americanism in Pakistan.

Woman voting in Pakistan
Women voted in separate female voting booths
He believed it would be best for Pakistan if they won, and he also wanted the military back in the barracks.

An older man scuttled past on his way from the booth, saying he had voted simply to get rid of the present military-led government.

Later, at some of the polling stations in the capital, the trickle of voters did turn into queues.

Accountability

The mixture of sentiments about the elections remained much the same.

Agents of the two mainstream parties until now - the Pakistan People's Party and Nawaz Sharif's wing of the Pakistan Muslim League - were trying to put a brave face on the criticisms from voters of the politics of the past.

Only the results would show whether they were justified in doing so.

The military-led government has maintained that these elections are not just historic - they are all about accountability.

Visit dirt poor villages in the southern province of Sindh and they will readily tell you what they mean by accountability.

At election time candidates make lavish promises to bring them regular supplies of water or provide them with other desperately needed essentials of life. Then they vanish, the villagers say, and the promises go unfulfilled.

In travels through Sindh in recent days, it was obvious that many people were not expecting any more of these elections.

President Pervez Musharraf has described it as a historic juncture for Pakistan.

Many Pakistanis will let history be the judge of that, rather than the general.

Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

Background

TALKING POINT

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BBC WORLD SERVICE
See also:

10 Oct 02 | South Asia
10 Oct 02 | South Asia
09 Oct 02 | South Asia
09 Oct 02 | South Asia
09 Oct 02 | South Asia
08 Oct 02 | South Asia
08 Oct 02 | South Asia
08 Oct 02 | South Asia
09 Oct 02 | Country profiles
10 Oct 02 | Media reports
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