Tomorrow I'll be voting for the first time, in Pakistan


Pakistani election presiding officers and their staff wait for election materials at a distribution point in Rawalpindi on May 10, 2013. The Taliban on Friday stepped up their threats against Pakistan's landmark elections, warning voters to boycott polling stations to save their lives.


Farooq Naeem

KARACHI, Pakistan — In less than 12 hours, I'll be heading to my local polling center, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. This is the first time in my life that I will be voting, and I'm going to do my best to share with you just what it's like to cast a ballot in Pakistan.

Though earlier today the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority said they'd be shutting off all cell services in Sindh, the province where I live, they've changed their mind for now. Of course, this is Pakistan, and who knows what I'll discover tomorrow morning when I wake up.

The question on most people's minds here is what tomorrow will bring. This has been one of the bloodiest election seasons ever in Pakistan, and the Taliban has vowed fresh carnage on voting day. You can read my previous piece about how the violence will likely affect voters for GlobalPost here.

The danger is personal. For the last few days my friends and family have been debating what time we'll leave for the polls, weighing the discomfort of scorching weather against the threat of violence. The weather tomorrow is supposed to be brutal: humid and reaching highs of about 100 degrees in the afternoon.

But the looming Taliban threat means that many voters will wait out the cooler morning hours before deciding whether they should head to the polls. If there are many blasts early in the day, it'll easily deter people from voting later on. Of course, the Taliban isn't stupid; there's a good chance that they'll wait for the late crowd before carrying out any attacks.

If you need to get up to speed on the Pakistani elections before tomorrow, there are some good resources I'd like to point you to.

I've compiled a Twitter list of some of my favorite journalists, bloggers and opinion writers in Pakistan. If cell services haven't been disbanded, they're who I'd look to for insight and opinion on election day. I'll also be tweeting @m_karimjee. Follow along for photos, interviews with voters, and a ballot-box view of what's happening.

The best primer that I've seen thus far has been the Washington Post's informative chart of where Pakistan's leading politicians and parties stand on major issues. It's a great introduction to what's at stake tomorrow.

Pakistan's leading English daily, Dawn, has an election portal on their website. They've profiled most of the country's key constituencies, and reported heavily on the issues surrounding the election. From opinionated blog posts to photo galleries, the portal is a one-stop shop for getting both the big picture and the details.

For those of you concerned primarily with rapidly increasing militantism in Pakistan, there's Foreign Policy, which has been tracking the nuances of the phenomenon ahead of the elections. Shamila Chaudry, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, has been cultivating their election blog.

Al Jazeera English has an excellent piece about Pakistan's restive province of Balochistan. It's an important region; though not Pakistan's most populous, it has a wealth of natural resources as well as a growing separatist movement. During the 2008 elections, many nationalist and separatist parties in Balochistan boycotted the vote. But 2013 could change the fate of Balochistan forever.

Lastly, for anyone who has the time and inclination, Tanqeed, an online magazine in Pakistan, has compiled a beautifully detailed map and spreadsheet that highlights every district and constituency in Pakistan.

Stay tuned to this blog, and check here for the latest news about the elections.