Pakistanis head to the polls despite interparty, militant violence

WEB_Pakistan_Election_PTI_Results_Reuters

No one immediately claimed responsibility, but local officials were quick to blame the Islamic State group.

In Balochistan, at least 31 people were killed and more than 40 injured in the Bhosa Mandi area of Quetta when a suicide bomber targeted a police envoy that also included the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Abdul Razzaq Cheema who escaped unhurt.

Pakistanis were voting Wednesday in a historic third straight election ending a campaign marred by widespread allegations of manipulation that local and global rights group have said imperil the country's wobbly transition to democratic rule.

A supporter of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), wears a party cap with a photo of him and assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, as he waits with others to welcome him during a campaign gathering, ahead of general elections, at the airport in Karachi, Pakistan July 20, 2018.

Opinion polls are predicting a hung parliament, with neither party winning a clear majority.

Sharif's outgoing ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), was estimated at between 42 and 69. Later, more clashes between rival parties killed another person and wounded 15 elsewhere.

"It is the dirtiest elections in the history of Pakistan", said another leader Mushahid Hussain Syed.

The leading among them are Mumbai-terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed-led banned Jamat-ud Dawa's candidates who are fighting with an aim to make Pakistan a "citadel of Islam".

The ECP was also criticised for deploying the Army both inside and outside of polling stations.

Pakistan is locked in a close and tense election race on Wednesday, pitting cricket hero Imran Khan against the party of jailed ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a process marred by a suicide bomb that killed 31 people near a polling station.

ISIS claims responsibility for Pakistani polling station blast
Pakistan bomb attack in Quetta kills 18 as country holds general election | Daily Star

Radical groups such as the Milli Muslim League, linked to Hafiz Saeed, the man accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks, are also contesting the polls, though many are running under the banner of smaller, lesser-known parties.

Election Commission of Pakistan will release results by constituency, as well as projection and votes polled for candidates on each seat.

The 85,307 polling stations opened at 8 a.m. and will continue for 10 hours, an hour longer than in the 2013 polls.

The US said it is "closely" monitoring the situation in Pakistan which goes to polls today, emphasising that it supports free, fair, transparent and accountable elections in the country.

Some violations of election code of conduct and few irregularities at some polling stations were also observed at various places in the country.

As many as 12,570 candidates are contesting for 272 national and 577 provincial assembly seats in Pakistan's 11th general election.

The Americans will be particularly concerned about the outcome of the election, given that Khan famously said he would order the Pakistani military to shoot down American drones if he came to power, and advocated negotiations with Pakistani Taliban fighters rather than military operations against them. Voting for two parliament seats and six seats in provincial assemblies has been postponed for a later date, due to attacks on candidates or disqualifications. Final results are expected early Thursday.

Election officials reminded candidates their results will be nullified if the female voter turnout didn't reach 10 per cent.

Voting began at 8 am (local time), during which most of Pakistan's almost 106 million people came out to cast their votes.

Under Pakistani law, separate seats are reserved for women and for non-Muslim minorities, which comprise 4 per cent of the population.

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