ISLAMABAD – Following a campaign overshadowed by violence and fraud allegations, Pakistanis voted Wednesday for a new government that will face the challenges of a collapsing economy and continued bloodshed by militants Suicide bombers kill 31 people in front of a polling station
Official results that declared an absolute winner were not expected until late Thursday morning. However, earlier unofficial results gave crimson star Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) side a clear lead over their main rival Shahbaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League.
Jubilant Khan supporters danced to the rhythm of his drumming party headquarters in Islamabad, feeling a victory. The sound of fireworks echoed in the night sky.
Sharif, the younger brother of imprisoned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was arrested on corruption charges, punished the election results even before they were announced. He complained of fraud and vowed not to accept the results, raising fears that angry losers might delay the formation of the next government.
The vote in parliament marked only the second time in Pakistan's 71
"We will sweep the elections," said Abdul Basit, a follower of Khan,
hours after the polls, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated his explosive in a crowd waiting to vote in the southwestern city of Quetta , In addition to the 31 dead, the attack injured 35 people, Dr. Jaffar Kakar, an official of the hospital. Nobody took responsibility immediately, but local officials quickly blamed the Islamic State group.
The attack in Quetta, capital of the Balochistan province, highlighted the difficulties faced by the majority Muslim nation on its shaky trip to sustainable democracy]. Also, Balochistan experienced the worst violence during the election campaign earlier this month as a suicide bomber at a political rally and killed 149 people, including the candidate Siraj Raisani. Another 400 were wounded. IS takes responsibility for this attack. There have been unrelenting attacks in Baluchistan, both by the secessionists of the province and by Sunni militants who have killed hundreds of Shiites.
The military stationed 350,000 soldiers in polling stations across the country.
Moeed Yusuf, deputy vice president of the Asia Center at the Washington Institute of Peace said that politically-motivated mafia violence in Pakistan is rare, while Wednesday's attack in Balochistan appears to be the work of a terrorist group.
"Terrorist violence is a very different problem and it is unlikely to affect political stability," Yusuf said. "Unfortunately, Pakistanis have gone through so much violence that they have become desensitized."
Yusuf said the biggest challenge for the next government would be the economic crisis.
"The new government will be in an unenviable position, and especially Imran Khan, as he is not the preferred prime minister for the two traditional captains of Pakistan, China and the US"
Khan was a outspoken critic the US-led war in neighboring Afghanistan and China's massive investment in Pakistan, which has invested millions of dollars in debt to Beijing.
Khan's followers showered his vehicle with rose petals as he tuned near his home in the capital of Islamabad. He then appealed to the Pakistanis to vote in large numbers "to save future generations".
After completing the polls, Electoral Commission spokesman Nadeem Qasim told Associate Press that the Commission had informed Khan that his vote could be disqualified for casting his vote in front of television cameras, violating constitutional provisions on "secrecy the ballot. " Video images showed a smiling Khan with his vote in front of him as he marked it.
As an early result, Khan gave an edge, Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League's Maryam Aurangzeb made the first allegations of electoral fraud and warned that his followers could revolt if the charges proved correct.
"We will not allow anyone to steal the mandate that the nation has given us," she told a press conference. "So far, we control our followers, but we will not be able to persuade them to exercise restraint if the results are manipulated against our party."
When the elections came to an end, festive supporters of both parties gathered outside the polling stations.
The third largest party is the left-leaning Pakistani People's Party led by Bilawal Bhutto, the son of the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, assassinated by the Pakistani Taliban she swore to exterminate
More than 11,000 candidates vying for 270 seats in Pakistan's legislative body National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, and 577 seats in four provincial assemblies. Under Pakistani law, separate seats are reserved for women and for non-Muslim minorities, which make up 4 percent of the population.
The 85,307 polling stations were open 10 hours, an hour longer than 2013. Elections for two seats in parliament and six seats in provincial assemblies were postponed due to attacks on candidates or disqualifications. The final results are expected early on Thursday.
There are more than 105 million voters – 59 million men and 46 million women.
Electoral officials reminded candidates that their results would be canceled if women's turnout did not reach 10 percent. The edition was imposed after the 2013 elections, when several electoral districts were banned by women, mostly in the conservative north-west. Some candidates won without a single woman holding a vote. Human rights activist Tahira Abdullah said on Tuesday that local jirgas or councils of elders from 60 districts representing 16 different constituencies had signed agreements that denied voting despite the new ruling [19659030WomenstimmtenzumerstenMalamWednesdayinPakistananstribesteamandreligiousconservativeNorth-WaziristanwoTaliban-insurgency-assuredhavefound
"We have made history today, "said Mohamad Ayaz Khan, a government administrator. "It's the first time that women come out of their homes to vote."
Voting is separate by gender in every polling station across Pakistan.
In some places in Islamabad and also in the provincial capital Punjab with several political party leaders queuing up to vote. Local television stations reported isolated incidents of police arrests of people with predetermined ballots.
One concern is the unprecedented involvement of radical religious groups, including those who are banned from links to terrorism but revived under various names. This has led to concern among minorities and women in the run-up to the elections.
Jibran Nasir, an independent candidate from the Karachi Financial Center, said he received death threats and even issued a fatwa or religious edict against him. He had refused to condemn Ahmadis, who were labeled as heretics by the mainstream Muslims because they believe that the promised Messiah in Islam had arrived over a century ago. In 1974, Pakistan declared Ahmadis non-Muslim.
International and national election observers will oversee the elections. The European Union Election Observation Mission has 120 observers in key centers across Pakistan, with the exception of Baluchistan.
On Wednesday, a group of supporters of two political parties in a village near the northwestern city of Swabi killed one person and wounded two. Later, more clashes between rival parties killed another person and injured 15 elsewhere.
Associated Press Writers Zarar Khan and B.K. Bangash in Islamabad; Abdul Sattar in Quetta, Baluchistan; Zaheer Babar in Lahore; Adil Jawad in Karachi, Pakistan and Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.
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