Voting begins as Pakistan heads to the polls

Elena Summers
July 25, 2018

However, those projections were based on only about 20 percent of votes counted.

Speaking to the media in Islamabad, Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the party's polling agents were not only being thrown out of polling stations but also being deprived of their right of obtaining the all-important Form-45.

Khan's party spokesman, Fawad Chaudhry, showed confidence as the early projections were broadcast, saying in a tweet "Congratulations to the nation on a new Pakistan!".

Thus, while the vote bank of PML-N has declined nationally by, 3-6 per cent, depending on the polls considered, from its vote bank of General Elections in 2013, the PTI vote bank during the same time period has almost doubled from its score of 17 per cent in 2013.

The PML-N has taken hope in another opinion poll focusing on Punjab only - Sharif's party had a lead of 51 per cent to PTI's 30 per cent, according to the IPOR Consulting survey conducted from April 15 to June 2. The election marks the second democratic transition of power in the nation's 70-year history.

But campaigning has been plagued for months by allegations the powerful armed forces have been trying to tilt the race in Khan's favor after falling out with the outgoing ruling party of Sharif, who was jailed on corruption charges this month.

Ahead of Wednesday's balloting, over 170 people - including three candidates running in the elections - were killed in suicide bombings in southwestern Baluchistan and northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

Whichever party wins, it will face a mounting and urgent in-tray, from a brewing economic crisis to worsening relations with on-off ally the United States to deepening cross-country water shortages.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack that took place as thousands head to the poll to elect Pakistan's next leader.

An election official marks a voter's thumb before casting her vote during Pakistan's general election at a polling station in Islamabad on July 25, 2018.

"I ask everyone today - be a citizen, cherish this country, worry about this country, use your vote".

The PTI, led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, is looking to unseat the incumbent PML-N, which was formally led by the now jailed ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

He also said the Army will only perform a facilitative role in the elections and that the polling process is to remain under the control and authority of the ECP.

As well, Khan's vehicle was allowed to enter the polling station, and he also brought members of his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, inside.

Such a delay could further imperil Pakistan's economy, with a looming currency crisis expected to force the new government to turn to the International Monetary Fund for Pakistan's second bailout since 2013.

In Pakistan's First Past the Post electoral system, the ascent of PTI to catch PML-N could cause a major upset for the parliamentary seat distribution in Punjab, it said.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of former president Asif Ali Zardari was leading on 26 seats, possibly giving him a chance to play kingmaker in case of a hung parliament.

PML-N's Amir Muqam is leading in NA-29 constituency.

All the mainstream political parties have raised serious reservations over the credibility of the polling process.

However, the PML-N could reap a sympathy vote after Nawaz Sharif returned to be arrested on July 13 along with his daughter Maryam, leaving his cancer-stricken wife in a London hospital.

Hours after polling began for the general elections, an Islamic State suicide bomber blew himself up outside a polling station in Bhosa Mandi area of Balochistan's provincial capital, Quetta, killing 31 people, including policemen.

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