Voting in national and provincial elections in Pakistan were disrupted by incidents of violence on Wednesday. At least 31 people were killed and over 20 injured in a suicide attack on a police convoy near a polling station in Quetta’s Eastern Bypass, reported Dawn, quoting officials.
Police officials and civilians were among those killed. The attack targeted the convoy of Deputy Inspector General Abdul Razzaq Cheema, who escaped unhurt, reported Express Tribune. The police confirmed it was a suicide blast.
Meanwhile, a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf worker was killed and at least two others were injured in an exchange of fire between rivals at a polling station in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Swabi. Another person was killed in firing outside a polling station in Dighri area. At least three people were injured after an explosion was reported outside a polling station in Larkana in Sindh province.
Seven people, including a woman, were arrested from different polling station in Karachi on the alleged suspicion of “electoral malpractice”, reported The Express Tribune.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has directed TV channels to stop airing election-related content and discussions, Dawn reported. The move came after the Election Commission of Pakistan complained that TV channels were airing recorded footage of public gatherings, addresses of political parties and candidates made till July 23.
The poll panel later summoned Imran Khan for “breaching secrecy of the ballot” by casting his vote in full public view, reported Dawn. It has asked Khan to appear before the commission at 10 am on July 30.
Voting in national and provincial elections in Pakistan began amid tight security at 8 am (8.30 am Indian time) on Wednesday. Nearly 10.6 lakh Pakistanis are eligible to cast their votes in 272 constituencies of the National Assembly and 577 in the four provincial assemblies.
Voting will end at 6 pm local time. Earlier, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) in a letter requested the Election Commission to extend voting time by an hour, citing “long lines of votes waiting in queue”. The request was reportedly rejected by the poll panel, reported The Guardian. The government has declared Wednesday a public holiday. Results are expected within 24 hours after the polls close.
Over 12,500 candidates are in the fray. This will be the country’s second democratic transfer of power. Over 3.71 lakh Army personnel are deployed at 85,000 polling stations for security, Dawn reported.
In the fray
The three key parties in the elections are the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Peoples Party. The PML(N)’s founder, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was jailed for 10 years in a corruption case. Former cricket star Imran Khan leads the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari heads the Pakistan Peoples Party.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz President Shahbaz Sharif cast his vote in Lahore and vowed that if given a chance, his party will change Pakistan’s destiny, end unemployment, improve education and health, and build the Diamer-Bhasha dam in Gilgit-Baltistan region, reported Geo News.
The campaigning for the elections ended on Monday night, as directed by the Election Commission of Pakistan. Corruption, the currency crisis, deteriorating relations with the United States, and security are key issues in the elections.
In the run-up to the elections, a series of explosions and attacks have hit campaign rallies. Two candidates – the Balochistan Awami Party’s Siraj Raisani and PTI’s Ikramullah Gandapur – were killed in such attacks.