Earlier, one policeman was killed and three wounded in a hand grenade attack on a polling station in southwestern Balochistan, Pakistan’s poorest and most restive province, local police there told AFP.
Pakistani cricket hero-turned-politician Imran Khan led in partial results of a general election on Thursday, as the party of his jailed chief rival, ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, rejected the count as “blatantly” rigged.
The main rival parties at the elections are the Pakistan Muslim League, a center-right conservative party, sympathetic to the United States and spearheaded by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and the Pakistan Movement for Justice, a populist centrist party led by former cricketer Imran Khan.
“It is vital that all of Pakistan’s institutions support and respect the free will of the Pakistani people, expressed through these upcoming elections”, the spokesperson said.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the explosion. Another 400 were wounded.
Khan is campaigning on populist promises to build a “New Pakistan”, vowing to eradicate corruption, clean up the environment and construct an “Islamic welfare” state.
“My candidates [have been] complaining [that] polling agents have been thrown out of polling stations across the country”.
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.
“This is an outright rigging and the results based on massive rigging will cause irreparable damage to the country”, he said in a tweet.
Taking into account the wave of violence and terrorist attacks witnessed in the run-up to the elections, Peshawar’s deputy commissioner arranged 1,000 kafans (burial shroud) as a pre-emptive measure.
Yusuf said the top challenge for the next government will be the economic crisis. A teenage girl took her mother on a motorcycle to vote for Khan, she said, because public transport was not available.
Khan’s supporters showered his vehicle with rose petals as he arrived to vote at a polling station near his home suburb in Islamabad.
Pakistanis will get an idea about who is leading in their general elections early Thursday and the final results will take 24 hours, according to historical precedent. Video images showed a smiling Khan with his ballot in front of him as he marked it.
After Sharif’s disqualification, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was elected as 18th Prime Minister of Pakistan by the National Assembly in August 2017.
“We will not allow anyone to steal the mandate the nation has given to us”, she told a news conference. Candidates from the party claim they’ve been targeted by the military.
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.
Voting day saw bloodshed, with many killed in a blast at a polling station. The 2013 election was also marred by violence, with 150 people killed in the six weeks leading up to polling day.
Hamdani said the situation was under control and voting was underway in Col Sher Khan village.
The military rejected the accusations and said it has no “direct role” in the electoral process.
Voting is segregated by gender throughout Pakistan at every polling station. It is to be noted that out of the total 272 National Assembly seats, 141 fall in Punjab, the most populous province of the country. Local TV reported scattered incidents of police arresting people with pre-marked ballots. Others or the non-aligned candidates, including independents, are ahead in 62 constituencies. Pakistan in 1974 declared Ahmadis non-Muslims. Its mission in Pakistan did not deploy election observers primarily because of security concerns.