Pakistanis to vote today; 25 killed in Balochistan blasts
Islamabad: Pakistanis will vote on Thursday to elect a new government to rule the cash-strapped country amid a spree of violence including deadly blasts on the eve of elections, killing 25 in Baluchistan, in which the front-runner former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is believed to have the backing of the powerful military.
With former prime minister Imran Khan in jail, Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is tipped to emerge as the single largest party in the elections.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidates are contesting the polls independently after the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the election commission to deprive his party of its iconic election symbol cricket ‘bat’.
Nearly 650,000 security personnel have been deployed across the country as authorities were busy setting up polling stations to enable more than 12.85 crore registered voters to cast their ballot in the general elections.
According to ECP, a total of 5,121 candidates are in the race for the National Assembly (NA) seats. These include 4807 male, 312 female and two transgenders. For the four provincial assemblies, 12,695 candidates are in the field including 12,123 male, 570 women and two transgenders.
In total 266 NA seats were up for grabs out of 336, but polling was postponed on at least one seat after a candidate was killed in a gun attack in Bajaur. Sixty seats are reserved for women and another 10 for minorities, and are allotted to the winning parties on the basis of proportional representation.
Another 593 seats of the four provincial assemblies, out of total 749, were open for contest but the ECP delayed polls on at least three seats, two in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and one in Punjab, after two candidates died and one was killed.
A total of 132 seats in the four provinces are reserved for women in four provinces and another 24 for minorities. The reserved seats will be allotted to the winning political parties on the basis of general seats they win in the elections. Both women and non-Muslim minorities can also contest on all general seats in addition to the reserved seats set aside for them in the national and provincial assemblies.
Meanwhile, at least 25 people were killed and 42 others injured in two devastating bomb blasts targeting election offices in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province, a day before the general elections in the coup-prone country.
In the first incident, a powerful blast outside the office of independent candidate Asfandyar Khan Kakar in Pishin district killed 17 people and wounded 30 others.
Less than an hour later, another bomb blast took place outside the election office of a Jamiat-Ulema Islam-Pakistan in the Killa Abdullah area claiming the lives of eight people and injuring 12 others. Abdullah Zehri, a senior police official in Balochistan Panjgur, said that the blast outside the election office of candidate Asfandyar Khan Kakar was detonated remotely and was placed in a bag outside the building. “The condition of some of the injured is critical and they have been rushed to Quetta for treatment,” he said.