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Last Updated: Friday, 15 February 2008, 13:51 GMT
Pakistan polls: Voters and boycotters
The people of Pakistan are due to vote in national and provincial elections on Monday.

Here voters - and people boycotting - from across Pakistan describe their hopes and concerns. On election day they will be sharing their experiences on the BBC News website.

SHAHEEN ZEB, PESHAWARBIJJAR BALOCH, QUETTAZAMZAM AMAN, LARKANATASAWUR ALI, KARACHINAJEEB ULLAH, SWAT VALLEYMAIRA ZAHUR, ISLAMABADAHMAD HAMMAD, LAHOREZAAFER HAFEEZ, MULTAN

SHAHEEN ZEB, 44, SCHOOL TEACHER, PESHAWAR

I am voting for the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) because it will help the poor.

It is going to offer jobs to everybody and it will try to improve the economy. The party says it will help people start their own small businesses.

We will get on the road to being self-sufficient and being able to feed our families.

Education is also important to me. Everything is very bad in the government education system. Everything is rundown, we don't have many facilities, text books are basic. Even the teaching can be basic. Students just sit in rows and memorise lessons.

Shaheen Zeb
As a school teacher, it is compulsory to have an official role at the polling station. I'm very scared about this because it may be dangerous.

I have been allocated a polling station in an area known for violence. The government hasn't provided any extra security so anything could happen.

There are some people who are looking forward to the election but many who are not.

The problem here is that there are a lot of suicide bombings, and bomb blasts. People are too afraid to go to the polling station - it is very risky.

Losing Benazir (Bhutto) was a great loss. If Benazir hadn't died there would still have been the excitement we saw before.

BIJJAR BALOCH, DATA MANAGER, QUETTA

Bijjar Baloch

I don't want to vote for anybody. In Pakistan, election is a euphemism for selection. The results are foregone. The establishment has already selected all the contesters and the winners.

There is no hope that these elections are free and fair. So I am not going to vote. That is my protest.

I think many Balochis feel this way - this is the mood in Quetta (the capital of Balochistan province). All Baloch national parties have boycotted the elections.

If they were taking part, I would probably vote for them. I don't think the Pakistani assembly can solve the problems of Balochistan.

Balochis have little power in Pakistan - in parliament very little can be passed without the will of the representatives from Punjab.

I would like to see some kind of independence for Balochistan.

I expect a lot of tension on election day. People here are not good at accepting defeat: in every house people own Kalashnikovs and rifles.

TASAWUR ALI, 33, LECTURER, KARACHI

Tasawur Ali

The only choice in this urban centre of Pakistan is going to be the Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM). Their manifesto is practical and progressive.

The party has done a lot to contribute to the development of this nation and city.

My first concern is security. The corner meetings of different political parties are largely reduced. People don't turn up to these events because they fear terrorist attacks.

This has an impact on democracy. There is little political activity in our town. People are no longer talking so much about the price of flour or oil. They are talking about security.

For them, the best choice is the current government.

To us, the people of Karachi, President Musharraf is a kind of a saviour. We suffered a lot under the rule of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. As a student I was motivated to join a separatist movement. We thought we should have another country with another name.

Musharraf reformed the situation.

Anybody who comes here can see this is a city which has really developed. I'm an optimist. I hope for a large turnout and a positive result.

NAJEEB ULLAH, 24, STUDENT, SWAT VALLEY

Najeeb Ullah

I live in a small village in Swat valley.

Our local polling station is the village school. The situation here has not been good for the last few months. The man who has done great things for our area by building schools, repairing roads, upgrading hospitals - he is not running for these elections.

I might have liked to vote for (cricketer turned politician) Imran Khan but because he is boycotting the election, I think I will too as no party I respect is running.

My parents say we should not go to the polling station because of the threat of suicide attacks. Last time there was an election in our area, there was fighting and people were hurt badly.

One of the main concerns in this area is that businesses have been seriously affected. We are often placed under curfew because of search operations by the army who believe militants have returned to these villages.

Sometimes, early morning, a curfew is announced and a search operation is launched. Nobody can leave their home. In a nearby village two militants were arrested and two houses set on fire. This has an impact on businesses.

The poor cannot go to the city bazaar for work, the roads are blocked.

The army should try and clear the area of militants. They could do this in two or three days if they wanted. But more than four months have gone now.

We should not vote because of the threat of suicide attacks
If the army can clear the area the people here will like the army; if militants can maintain peace, they will like the militants. A few, who have no knowledge, are brainwashed by militants in the name of Islam.

Because of the lack of education, people don't know who is who and what is what.

I think it will be dangerous on election day.

ZAMZAM AMAN, 25, DOCTOR, LARKANA

Zamzam Aman

Larkana, where I live, is the homeland of Benazir Bhutto and I will vote for her party even though she is not here.

That is what I feel the people of Larkana want.

This is because we feel great sympathy after her assassination. But also, if you look back at the history of Pakistan, you will come to know that she and her family, especially her father, were icons of democracy.

When I talk to people on the street, they say the same thing. The poor and elderly say that Bhutto gave them a place to live, jobs, allowed people to earn incomes and live their lives. They could stand on their own feet.

We have been inspired by this family.

But I am very sorry to say that we have a dearth of good leaders in our country now and so there is no excitement at all with these elections.

I was recently at a memorial for Benazir Bhutto. People were saying that there is no spirit in politics. Who can you cast your vote for?

They said they won't bother to vote. They are afraid as well. I think very few voters will turn out fearing violence.

So there is no excitement now - that is the big change from the time Benazir was campaigning.

MAIRA ZAHUR, 32, NGO WORKER, ISLAMABAD

Maira Zahur

All my life I've been a keen observers of the political system here. I was interested in Imran Khan's party. Since he is not contesting I am going to go for Nawaz Sharif - the PML-N party.

He is the only real political power trying to counter Musharraf. He may not be the best but he is the only option around.

Pakistan has never had a year of good democracy.

For 60 years we have been ruled by the army generals and by feudal landlords. But democracy is the key. We need strong institutions and then we will get there.

The role of the army should be like a watchman at your gate. If he comes inside your house he might ruin the floor. Politics and democracy cannot be run by the military.

Islamabad is a politically aware society and we need to take responsibility. Islamic militancy is a threat here, but the way many Pakistanis have become indifferent about our politics is also a threat.

I think it will mainly be the middle classes voting in Islamabad. I also think this election is a step in the right direction.

AHMAD HAMMAD, 33, TV PRESENTER, LAHORE

Ahmad Hammad

I am very keen to cast my vote for Nawaz Sharif. I want to see an independent judiciary in Pakistan and he is the man to achieve this. Without an independent judiciary it will be impossible to progress as a nation.

The personality of Pervez Musharraf is the biggest obstacle to stability in Pakistan. Terrorism will not be countered through the bullet but the ballot.

If you go to negotiate with the local Taleban in tribal areas, you will find that they are loyal and patriotic and concerned with the future of Pakistan.

They have fought to protect Pakistan from the threat of the west. These are the people who saved Pakistan from Russia in the past.

Without consulting the nation, Musharraf decided to follow the lead of America. He did not even consult Parliament.

In Lahore, everybody is afraid of participating in an election. They are afraid of bombs. I went to pay my respects to Benazir Bhutto in a public place recently but my heart was pounding and I was scared. Fear prevails everywhere.

If you look at Lahore the banners and the colours of PML-Q, the party supporting Musharraf, is everywhere. The city has gone green. A stranger may believe that we are set to elect them.

Don't be deceived, the ground realities are different.

ZAAFER HAFEEZ, 28, SALES MANAGER, MULTAN

Zaafer Hafeez

I will vote for the PPP. I think they will prove to be good administrators, they can handle the issues we are facing today.

The main issue for me is what is happening in the tribal areas of Pakistan and the border with Afghanistan. We suffer from poverty, unemployment and all the major problems of third world countries - I think the PPP is the party to tackle these issues.

All of these issues affect me personally. Security is a major issue and security in Pakistan affects people inside and outside the country.

Multan does not suffer seriously from these problems. The main issues here are mismanagement, poverty and unemployment. The government is not taking care of things as they are supposed to.

I don't think people here are excited about the elections. They think that the government will somehow manipulate results.

We might see new faces but who knows if things will change?

The views above have been selected from as wide a cross-section of people as possible and may not be representative of wider Pakistani public opinion.



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