Death toll from elections-related violence crosses 120.
Yet more violence ahead of Pakistan’s general elections claimed at least four lives on Friday.
A motorbike bomb killed four people and wounded 15 close to the offices of different parties in Miranshah, the main town of the North Waziristan tribal agency. Security officials said Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) had offices nearby. Witnesses and officials said 15 people were taken to the state-run hospital, some of them in a serious condition.
In the southwest, a low-intensity bomb planted on the roof of the office of a Pakistan Peoples Party candidate in Quetta wounded five people early Friday, police said. The device detonated when supporters of a former Pakistan Peoples Party cabinet minister were gathering in his office.
No one claimed responsibility for Friday’s bombings, but the Taliban, who consider the elections un-Islamic, have carried out numerous attacks to undermine the polls and say they have dispatched suicide bombers for polling day.
Campaigning ended at midnight with impassioned pleas for votes from former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and cricket star Imran Khan looking for a breakthrough. Most commentators expect Sharif’s center-right PMLN to win, but it remains unclear how far Khan’s PTI can provide an upset and restrict Sharif’s chances of forming a stable coalition. (The main outgoing PPP has run a rudderless campaign in the face of Taliban threats.)
As the countdown to the polls began, the Election Commission announced that 179 million ballot papers were being distributed to around 70,000 polling stations across the country under Army supervision. More than 600,000 security personnel, including tens of thousands of soldiers, have been ordered to deploy to guard against attacks on polling day.
Some 86.2 million voters have from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to elect 272 lawmakers to the 342-member National Assembly and lawmakers to four provincial assemblies.
More than 120 people have been killed in bombings and shootings directly targeting politicians and political parties since mid-April, according to an AFP tally. The Taliban have singled out the PPP and its main coalition partners, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which controls Pakistan’s biggest city of Karachi, and the Awami National Party in the northwest.
On Thursday, a son of former PPP prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was kidnapped and two of his aides killed in Multan. Gilani told reporters on Friday that there had been no claim of responsibility for the abduction of his son Ali Haider Gilani, a 27-year-old PPP candidate for the Punjab Assembly. “We should create a conducive atmosphere for the elections, so that polls look fair and transparent,” Gilani said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has expressed concern about the wave of violence, has called on Pakistanis to take part peacefully in the polls regardless of their religion, ethnicity or gender.
Meanwhile, the party of populist cleric Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri, who in January led demonstrations demanding key reforms before elections, announced that he would hold sit-ins in Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi on Saturday. “The election results will prove that the same corrupt parties and corrupt criminals have been reelected to Parliament. No party will gain a majority, and after the elections there will be horse-trading based on corrupt practices,” he said.