Pakistanis voted today in a tense election to choose a new government as at least 34 people were killed in a suicide blast and poll-related violence, amidst charges of manipulation by the powerful Army and concerns over the participation of Islamic hardliners.
Hours after polling began for the general elections, a suicide blast hit Bhosa Mandi area of Balochistan’s provincial capital, Quetta, killing 31 people.
In separate incidents, three persons were killed in poll-related violence outside polling stations. Clashes erupted between rival parties outside several polling stations, reports said.
Nearly 106 million people are registered to vote for members of the lower house of parliament and four provincial assemblies. The election marks the second democratic transition of power in the nation’s 70-year history.
According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), 3,459 candidates are contesting for 272 general seats of the National Assembly, while 8,396 candidates are running for 577 general seats of the four provincial assemblies – Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The voting started at 8 AM local time on more than 85,000 polling stations. The counting of votes will be done on the spot soon after the conclusion of the polling process at 6 PM and results will be announced within 24 hours.
While polling stations officially opened for voting at 8 AM, enthusiastic citizens queued up outside their respective stations as early as 7 AM.
More than 30 political parties have fielded their candidates for the elections.