Defying Taliban death threats and violence that claimed 24 lives,millions of Pakistanis today voted in a landmark general election that marked the first democratic transition in the country’s 66-year history.
The Election Commission extended polling by an hour to accommodate large numbers of voters who were still present at polling stations and officials said they expected the turnout to be around 60 per cent.
A staggering 75,000 security personnel,including 5,000 troops for sensitive polling stations Taliban-dominated restive areas in northwest,were deployed to ensure smooth conduct of the exercise.
Long queues and chaotic scenes were witnessed outside thousands of polling stations across the country despite threats of attacks by the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan,which said it would target the elections as they are part of the “infidel” system of democracy.
The turnout remained strong throughout the day despite a string of gun and bomb attacks in Karachi,the country’s largest city,and across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces.
The attacks killed at least 24 people and injured dozens.
A total of 4,670 candidates are standing for the 342-member National Assembly while nearly 11,000 are running for the four provincial assemblies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,Punjab,Sindh and Baluchistan.
The main contenders are the PPP,which has been ruling the country,PML-N led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf headed by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.
The PML-N and Khan’s party were the only major political forces that were able to conduct a nationwide campaign after the banned TTP warned that it would target leaders and rallies of the secular-leaning PPP,Awami National Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement,which were part of the outgoing coalition.
The Election Commission termed the turnout as “very good” across the country in general without specifying the precise figure. The largest province of Punjab saw a huge turnout,it said.
More than 86 million people were eligible to vote in the polls. The process of counting of votes began as polling closed and the trends are expected by early morning tomorrow.
Thirteen people were killed and over 40 injured in three bomb attacks in Karachi.
The first blast went off near the election office of Awami National Party candidate Amanullah Mehsud. He escaped unhurt though several ANP workers were among the dead and injured.
The second blast went off minutes later near a polling station in the same area,triggering a stampede and disrupting voting.
Two persons were killed and several injured when a bus was targeted by the third blast at Qasba Colony in Karachi.
In the northwest,two policemen were killed and four others injured in an explosion at Toorghar in Peshawar.
Four workers of the Pakistan Peoples Party were gunned down in Charsadda while eight persons were injured when a bomb attached to a motorcycle went off outside a women’s polling station in Peshawar.
Five persons were wounded when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest after he was intercepted by police outside another polling station in Peshawar.
In Balochistan,three persons were killed in a clash between two rival groups at Chaman while two persons were continued…