34 killed in Pakistan as voting continues in violence-marred polls (Fifth Lead)

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Islamabad, July 25 (IANS) At least 34 people were killed and several injured mostly in a suicide bombing in Balochistan on Wednesday as millions of voters are thronging polling stations across the country to exercise their franchise in the 11th general election.

The Balochistan bombing targeted the convoy of Deputy Inspector General of Police Abdul Razzaq Cheema near a polling station. It left 31 persons, including some policemen, dead. The senior police official escaped unhurt, Geo News reported.

Civil Hospital Quetta officials confirmed the casualties.

The area was crowded as people were making their way to vote at Tameer-e-Nau Model School. Polling was halted at the polling station, only to resume later.

While polling stations opened for voting at 8 a.m., enthusiastic citizens queued up outside their respective stations as early as 7 a.m. Voting will end at 6 p.m. Halfway through polling, the PML-N had sent a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner, seeking an extension in time by one hour.

“The PML-N is making this demand under Section 70 of the Election Act 2017, which authorises ECP to ‘extend polling hours already fixed’,” read the letter, signed by Mushahid Hussain.

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The ECP, however, turned down the party’s request. The counting of the votes is being done simultaneously.

Results for the 11th general elections are expected to trickle in immediately after the polling ends with the final outcome likely by Thursday morning or afternoon, according to election officials.

A Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) worker was killed and two others injured as party activists clashed with Awami National Party (ANP) workers outside a polling station in Nawan Kali in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, according to Express News.

Another person was killed in firing outside a Mirpurkhas polling station in Dighri area.

In a separate incident, one person was killed while five people were injured in a cracker blast outside a political camp in Larkana.

The workers of the two parties clashed in Mardan as well. Several people have been injured in the firing incident. Following the clash, police took control of the affected area.

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Two people were injured in a firing incident in Dera Murad Jamali in Balochistan.

In a separate incident, four people were injured in a blast outside a political camp in Larkana, in Sindh province, the home of the Bhutto family.

Independent candidate Jibran Nasir said that Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan supporters attacked a facilitation camp he had set up in Chandio Village in Karachi.

As many as 12,570 candidates are in the field for a total of 849 seats of the national and provincial assemblies in the general election. Nearly 106 million people are eligible to vote.

The battle is mainly between three parties: Shahbaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Imran Khan’s PTI.

In an effort to increase voter participation, the Election Commission has declared a public holiday on Wednesday.

Over four lakh security personnel have been deployed at polling stations across the country to maintain law and order and take action against harassment, after the nation witnessed one of the bloodiest campaigning, inlcuding the July 13 bombing that killed 150 people.

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According to a poll official, 5,878 polling stations have been declared “highly sensitive” — official euphemism to mean they are prone to violence — in Sindh; 5,487 in Punjab and Islamabad; 3,874 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and FATA and 1,768 in Balochistan.

The elections are being held as emotions run over a graft case that led to the imprisonment of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz.

Sharif’s PML-N has condemned the legal cases against its members in order to force them to leave the party and the efforts to prevent the party from emerging victorious in the election as it had done in 2013 by getting absolute majority.

These elections are the second in Pakistan’s history in which a government was able to complete its term. Military dictators have ruled the country for half of the 71 years of its existence since its founding in 1947.

–IANS

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