ISLAMABAD (AP) – A suicide bomber on a motorcycle rammed into a busy polling station in Pakistan's Quetta town on Wednesday that killed at least 31 people and cast a dark shadow over what should be a historic day out of the country, Pakistanis choose their third consecutive government
The attack in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, highlighted the difficulties faced by this majority-Muslim nation on its shaky trip to sustainable democracy.
The bombing also wounded 35 people, several of whom were reported in critical condition, and expressed concerns that the death toll could continue to rise, said hospital official Jaffar Kakar, a medical doctor
on Wednesday voted for a National Assembly, the lower house of parliament and four provincial assemblies followed a fierce campaign characterized by widespread allegations of manipulation. Analysts and human rights groups warned of post-election instability and predicted that losing parties would fail
The uncertainty of the election results ̵
"Whatever the election, I see a lot of instability," said defender Ayesha Siddiqua, author of Military Inc., looking at the extensive financial holdings of the Pakistani army
A witness to the attack in Quetta, Abdul Haleem, who was waiting to cast his vote, said he saw a motorcycle drive into the crowd of voters seconds before the explosion. Haleem's uncle was killed in the explosion.
"There was a deafening bang, followed by a thick cloud of smoke and dust and so much crying from the injured people," he told the Associated Press.
No one immediately took responsibility for the bombing, but local officials were swiftly responsible for the Islamic State group.
Baluchistan also saw the worst violence during the election campaign earlier this month when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a political rally and killed 149 people including candidate Siraj Raisani. Another 400 were wounded. The election in this constituency was suspended.
IS responsible for this attack, although Baluchistan has experienced relentless attacks both from the secessionists of the province and from Sunni militants who have killed hundreds of Shiites living there. In recent years, the IS affiliate in the region has become a force behind the violence, often using local Sunni radicals from the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to carry out their attacks.
Relying on security concerns, the Pakistani Electoral Commission announced this Internet and mobile services in several districts of Baluchistan were discontinued. Election Commission secretary Babar Yaqub told reporters that there are threats against polling stations, staff and even candidates.
Militants attacked grenades Tuesday and opened fire on a military convoy escorting campaign workers and voting materials in the Turbat district of Baluchistan. Pakistan's military sent 350,000 troops to polling stations nationwide.
On Wednesday, shots between supporters of two political parties killed one person and wounded two in a village near the northwestern city of Swabi. Later there were further clashes between rival political parties that killed another person and injured 15 others in the country.
In some polling stations in Islamabad, the capital and also in the provincial capital Punjab, there were voices early in the series to cast their ballots. Local television stations reported isolated cases of police arrests of persons with pre-determined ballots
Another problem is the unprecedented involvement of radical religious groups in these elections, including those banned for terrorism bans, but resurrected and renamed minorities and women
Jibran Nasir, an independent candidate from Pakistan's financial center Karachi, said he had received death threats and even issued a fatwa or religious edict against him after refusing to condemn Ahmadis, from the mainstream Muslims Heretics cursed because they believe that the Messiah promised in Islam came over a century ago. Pakistan in 1974 declared Ahmadis non-Muslims.
The leading candidates in the election on Wednesday are former cricket star Imran Khan and his center right-wing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, and the right-center Pakistan Muslim League, the party of disgraced Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is in prison for corruption. His younger brother Shahbaz Sharif took control of the party.
Khan's followers showered his vehicle with rose petals when he arrived to vote in a polling station near his home in Islamabad. After the vote, he appealed to the Pakistanis to vote in large numbers and "save future generations."
The third largest party in the election campaign is the left-leaning Pakistan People's Party, led by Bilawal Bhutto, the son of the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, murdered by the Pakistani Taliban, whom she swore to exterminate.
Electoral officials say more than 11,000 candidates vying for 270 seats in Pakistan's Legislative House and 577 seats in four provincial assemblies
The 85,307 polling stations opened at 8 am and lasted 10 hours, an hour longer than in 2013 polls The vote for two seats in parliament and six seats in provincial assemblies was postponed due to attacks on candidates or disqualifications. First results are expected on early Thursday.
Pakistan has more than 105 million voters, 59 million men and 46 million women.
Pakistan's election commission has reminded the candidates that their elections will be canceled if the turnout does not reach 10 percent. The demand was made after the 2013 elections, when several areas banned the election of women, especially in northwest Pakistan's conservative conservative state. Some candidates were elected without a single woman holding a vote.
Veteran rights activist Tahira Abdullah warned Tuesday that local jirgas or elders councils from 60 parts of the country, representing 16 different constituencies, had signed agreements that denied women the election despite the new ruling. While some areas refuse to let up, other women have allowed to cast ballots.
In Pakistan's deeply tribal and religiously conservative North Waziristan, where Taliban insurgents have found safe havens, women elected on Wednesday for the first time, said Mohamad Ayaz Khan, a government administrator
"We have made history today," said Khan. "It's the first time that women come out of their homes to vote."
Voting is divided across Pakistan, with each polling station divided into sections for men and women, including separate election officials.
Results will arrive after the election is over, and the result is expected to be early Thursday night, the pollsters said.
International and national election observers will monitor the elections. The European Union Election Observation Mission has 120 election observers in major polling stations across Pakistan, with the exception of Balochistan
Under Pakistani law, separate seats are reserved for women and non-Muslim minorities, accounting for 4 percent of the population
Associated Press Author Zarar Khan of Islamabad, Abdul Sattar of Quetta, Baluchistan, Zaheer Babar, Lahore Adil Jawad of Karachi, Pakistan and Riaz Khan of Peshawar, Pakistan contributed to the report.