Pakistanis head to the polls despite interparty, militant violence

Pakistani soldiers sit on a truck during a patrol on a street in Rawalpindi

Pakistani soldiers sit on a truck during a patrol on a street in Rawalpindi

Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party on Thursday inched closer to becoming the single largest party in the country's 11th general elections followed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), while Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is at the third spot.

Expressed dismay over not extending time for polling, he said he had never seen in his life such a awful situation.

The ballots will be cast for 272 general seats of the lower house - also known as the National Assembly - and 577 general seats of the country's four provincial assemblies. "This is clear rigging, and we do not accept these results".

Voting day saw bloodshed, with many killed in a blast at a polling station.

Imran Khan's spokesperson Naeemul Haque said that the PTI chief will "address" Pakistan on Thursday at 2 pm PST, reported Dawn, "in celebration and recognition of the massive support received from the people of Pakistan in the 2018 elections which was a contest between the forces of good and evil".

At least 30 people were killed, including a child, and over 30 people were wounded when the suicide bomber detonated outside a crowded polling station in Quetta. Voting will continue until 6 p.m. local time.

"We will not allow anyone to steal the mandate the nation has given to us", she told a news conference.

Pakistanis headed to the polls early Wednesday to elect a new government for the next five years, officials and local media reported.

As election workers sorted through massive piles of paper ballots, other major parties including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) also alleged the count was being manipulated.

Meanwhile, PTI is clearly steering ahead in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with a lead on 64 seats against Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), which is now leading on 12 seats, as per reporting from 35pc polling stations in the province.

The results were expected by this morning, but the CEC only announced what he called was the "first non-official, preliminary result".

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The official, an aged retired civil servant, seemed to be having trouble reading their documents. Nearby, an army soldier - one of more than 371,000 deployed for these polls - watched on.

"Nawaz Sharif's only crime is to have done so much for the city of Lahore", shouted Rehana Kausar, 60, who has lived in the neighbourhood her entire life. "I would hold the democratic institutions responsible for [rigging] the polling", the PML-N president said.

Analysts have also highlighted unusual delays in the announcement of unofficial results in dozens of constituencies, especially in the crucial province of Punjab which has been a stronghold of PML-N.

However, PML-N leaders pulled no punches.

"They've become touts for the PTI".

PML-N alleges the country's powerful military - which has ruled Pakistan for roughly half of its 70-year history and has often sparred with Sharif over control of security and foreign policy - is behind a campaign that tilted the electoral playing field in favour of Khan's PTI.

But the PML-N was dealt several blows in the run-up to the polls.

In Lahore, some voters said they were touched by Nawaz Sharif's decision to return home from London to face jail, leaving behind his wife, who is hospitalised with a serious illness.

There are more than 105 million eligible voters - 59 million men and 46 million women.

"I was going to vote for Nawaz Sharif, but the way that he lied on the floor of the house, that convinced me that I couldn't vote for him", said Ahmed Ali Malik, a retired banker who flew in from Manchester to vote at Lahore's Delhi Gate.

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