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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Pakistan election – latest updates: Nation votes on its new Prime Minister and government

The Electoral Commission of Pakistan is predicting record turnouts

A soldier keeps watch as voters line up to enter at a polling station during general election in Rawalpindi, Pakistan July 25, 2018. Faisal Mahmood / Reuters 
A soldier keeps watch as voters line up to enter at a polling station during general election in Rawalpindi, Pakistan July 25, 2018. Faisal Mahmood / Reuters 

More than 100 million people are eligible to vote in today’s general election in Pakistan, in what is the country’s second transfer of power. The nation goes to the polls amidst an imminent financial crisis, frozen relations with India and after being blasted by President Donald Trump for its “lies and deceit”.

The knife-edge election is set to pit cricket hero Imran Khan against the party of ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was jailed earlier this month on corruption charges.

While Mr Sharif remains the figurehead of his Pakistan Muslim League party, anti-corruption crusader Mr Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf have cast a populist campaign as a battle to topple a predatory political elite hindering development.

Mr Khan's party has inched ahead of PML-N in recent national polls, but even if it gets the most votes, it will likely struggle to win a majority of the 272 elected seats in the National Assembly, raising the prospect of weeks of haggling to form a messy coalition government.

  • Voting begins around the country ending a rancorous election campaign
  • Early voting was heavy in polling stations in Islamabad, the capital, and in the Punjab provincial capital
  • Ethnic minority candidates have received death threats and issued fatwas, religious edicts, against them

All times UAE (UTC+4)

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17:00 Polling stations close

The clocks have struck 6pm (5pm in the UAE) and polling stations are closed. Voters who have already joined a polling queue will be allowed to cast their ballots.

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16:16 Calls for extension rejected

The election commission has now rejected the calls for an extension. Voting will close at 5pm UAE time as previously arranged.

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16:11 Parties begin calling for extension

Leaders of the Pakistan People's Party have now also called for an extension, complaining about the slow rate of voting at several polling stations.

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15:51 Extension in polling deadline expected

Leaders of Nawaz Sharif's PML-N will hold what they call an "emergency" press conference shortly, Geo News reported.

With little more than an hour of voting left, they are expected to list complaints received from across the country and seek an extension in the polling deadline the news channel said.

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15:08 Sporadic violence between rival parties

Polling day has also seen sporadic clashes between the two leading rival parties, raising fears that any result could be met by violence.

In the worst skirmish in Punjab province, rival activists from Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (Pakistan Justice Movement) and Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) opened fire at each other, hurled clubs and threw stones. Four people were hospitalised with bullet wounds and one of them died.

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13:50 Careem urges Pakistanis to vote

Careem, the Dubai-based ride hailing app, has called on Pakistanis to turn out to vote and set up a free transport service to get them to polling stations.

The firm earlier in the campaign was forced to apologise after online marketing that many felt was mocking political parties.

Careem Pakistan forced to apologise over ill-conceived election marketing campaign

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Video: Blast kills 31 as Pakistan votes

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13:45 Record turnout predicted

Pakistan's elections have in the past laboured under poor turnouts, but the election commission this year predicts a record, more than the 55 per cent who voted in 2013.

Dawn TV broadcast footage of a young groom who took time out from his wedding celebrations to vote.

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13:07 Death toll in Quetta rises

Thirty-one have been killed and 35 wounded in the blast, with several reported to be in critical condition, raising concerns the death toll could rise further.

A witness who was waiting to cast his ballot, Abdul Haleem, said he saw a motorcycle drive into the crowd of voters just seconds before the explosion. Haleem's uncle was killed in the explosion.

"There was a deafening bang followed by thick cloud of smoke and dust and so much crying from the wounded people," he said.

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13:00 Several areas have seen women vote for the first time in this election

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11:57 Cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan speaks to members of media after casting his vote at a polling station

Reuters 
Reuters 

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11:40 ISIS claims responsibility for attack in Quetta

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing in Quetta. The group said the attack was aimed at a local police chief, but he escaped.

ISIS had vowed revenge on the security forces in the province after the extremists' leader in Baluchistan, Amir Mufti Hidayatullah, was killed by them last week in Kalat.

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11:05 Condolences offered as Quetta death toll mounts

With the death toll in Quetta mounting, political leaders have begun offering their condolences:

Prime Ministerial candidate for PTI, Imran Khan has also condemned the attack:

Thirty-one people have been killed, and 35 wounded in a suicide boming outside a crowded polling station in the western city of Quetta.

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10:55 'People want change'

Saqib Waheed a 26-year-old student voting in Rawalpindi says he expects a high turnout.

He said: "Definitely it's an important election. All around the world people want change and Pakistan is no different."

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10:39 Party leaders cast their votes

Shehbaz Sharif, younger brother of jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, called on supporters to turn out.

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Read more on the Pakistani elections:

Pakistan rolls out unprecedented security operation ahead of election

Opinion: Divide and rule: why the Pakistani army stands to gain from stirring rivalries between parties

Opinion: Will voters in Pakistan decide on a clean sweep of the country’s indisputably rotten system of governance?

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10:35 Blast kills at least 28 in Pakistani city on election day - media

Pakistani security officials inspect the scene of a suspected suicide bomb attack outside a polling station during general elections in Quetta, Pakistan. EPA
Pakistani security officials inspect the scene of a suspected suicide bomb attack outside a polling station during general elections in Quetta, Pakistan. EPA

A blast killed at least 28 people in Pakistan's western city of Quetta on Wednesday in an attack targeting a police van, media said, as the South Asian nation holds general elections.

At least 40 people were also wounded outside the crowded polling station in Quetta.

Geo TV put the death toll at 18, while rival Samaa TV put it at 20, adding a "suicide attacker" was responsible.

Quetta city, western Pakistan:

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10:30 Pictures from around Pakistan

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10:05 From Ben Farmer in Islamabad

Voting for two parliament seats and six seats in provincial assemblies has been postponed for a later date, due to attacks on candidates or disqualifications.

One candidate in the Sindh provincial assembly was unopposed and has already secured that seat.

Malik Dil Nawaz Wazir has the unenviable job of overseeing the elections in the former heartland of Pakistan's Taliban. The returning officer in South Waziristan, outlined the security preparations for each polling station to The National.

He said: “We have full proof security for polling staff as well as polling stations.”

A detachment of four soldiers per polling station would be joined by 10 members of paramilitary forces.

A quick reaction force is held in reserve, no more than 20 minutes drive from any polling station.

Of 98 polling stations, 42 are considered sensitive and have been fitted with security cameras.

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10:00 Voting opens around the country

Pakistanis began voting in the second democratic transition of power in a country with a history of coups d'etat and military rule. The elections will be ending a campaign marred by widespread allegations of manipulation that imperils the country's wobbly transition to democratic rule.

The ballots will decide a new government and prime minister in a general election braced for militant violence and protected by the country's largest ever polling day security operation.

More than 85,000 polling stations are open across Pakistan and more than 12,000 candidates are vying for 272 seats in parliament and 577 seats in four provincial assemblies.

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The main contenders

Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)

Brother of the jailed former-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Mr Sharif has been called "Pakistan's Bobby Kennedy". As leader of the PML-N, Mr Sharif, 66, has used his expertise in developing infrastructure in the key province of Punjab to maintain favour with voters.

Imran Khan, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)

Cricket player turned politician Imran Khan is the nation's most likely contender for change. Standing on a platform of anti-corruption and change, Mr Khan is drawing with Mr Sharif in many polls. Despite his playboy reputation as a cricket player, Mr Khan has stood on a socially conservative platform. In 2013 Mr Khan failed to win the race, finishing third, primarily due to his focus on speaking to large crowds instead of building political alliance.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Pakistan's People's Party (PPP)

Stuck in the shadow of corruption allegations against his father, Asif Ali Zardari, Mr Zardari, 29, is currently polling in third place. Mr Zardari is the eldest son of Pakistan's late Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007. The PPP could retain a pivotal role if they win the crucial Sindh province, and form a coalition with either of the two major parties.

Siraj ul-Haq, Jamaat-I-Islami

Jamaat-I-Islami is the political voice of Pakistan's Sunni Muslim clergy, the country's majority faith. The party could join forces with Mr Khan's PTI, should he win the election.