Imran Khan may have early lead in Pakistan elections, unofficial results show

Imran Khan wants to create a 'New Pakistan,' many fear more of the same

Imran Khan wants to create a 'New Pakistan,' many fear more of the same

Electoral authorities said official results declaring an outright victor were not expected before late Thursday morning.

Jubilant Khan supporters danced to the beat of drums at his party headquarters in Islamabad, sensing a victory. The sound of fire crackers echoed in the night sky.

Earlier yesterday, doctors have requested authorities to shift former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to hospital from Adiala jail, citing his ill health. He charged fraud and vowed not to accept the results, generating fears that disgruntled losers could delay the formation of the next government.

These elections are the second in Pakistan's history in which a government was able to complete its term to make way for another government after being ruled by military dictators for half of the 71 years of its existence since its founding in 1947.

"We will sweep the elections", said Abdul Basit, a supporter of Khan's, who watched the results on a large TV screen.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman voted in the northwestern city of Dera Ismail Khan soon after polls opened on Wednesday.

"The way the people's mandate has blatantly been insulted, it is intolerable", Shehbaz Sharif, leader of the PML-N and brother of the former prime minister.

Daesh terror group later claimed responsibility for the attack via its AMAQ news agency. Another 400 were wounded.

PPP leaders recently have joined PML-N in decrying "pre-poll rigging" involving restricted campaigning, quashed media coverage and candidates intimidated by military officers to change allegiance to Khan.

In 2007, he went on hunger strike to protest against emergency rule in Pakistan a week after being jailed as part of a continuing crackdown by president Pervez Musharraf on political opponents. "Unfortunately, Pakistanis have gone through so much violence that they are desensitized to it".

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Under Pakistani law, separate seats are reserved for women and for non-Muslim minorities, who comprise 4 percent of the population.

Khan is also likely to be met with trepidation in neighbouring Afghanistan, where he has been vocal in his opposition to the US-led invasion that followed the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Pakistani election staff prepare election material ahead of voting.

The Election Commission announced that polling will begin at 8am and will continue uninterrupted till 6pm.

Former premier Sharif, a vocal critic of the army, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on corruption charges in absentia and was arrested after returning to Pakistan on July 13.

"Our predictions are very murky right now", Bilal Gilani, executive director of pollster Gallup Pakistan, told AFP on Tuesday. "These elections were fair and we have not received any complaint".

Based on reporting of 47 per cent of polling stations, PTI is leading on 113 National Assembly seats, while the PML-N trails behind with 64 and the PPP-Parliamentarians (PPP-P) is at third spot with 43 seats. On that day in 1992, Pakistan lifted the first ever Cricket World Cup trophy beating England by 22 runs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground under Khan's captainship.

Sharif marked his ballot for both the National and Punjab provincial Parliaments and is contesting elections in four National Assembly seats and in two Punjab provincial legislature seats. Some reports suggested it would not be until Thursday evening at the earliest. "If anyone has proof, we will take action", he said.

Voting is segregated by gender throughout Pakistan at every polling station. Several people have been injured in the firing incident. He has allied himself with extremist religious groups with ties to militancy. In 1974, Pakistan declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslims. But video images of his smiling image marking his ballot landed him in trouble with the Pakistan Election Commission. More than 180 people have been killed in the last three weeks, including three candidates.

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