Pakistanis voting in landmark national and provincial elections

Pakistanis voting in landmark national and provincial elections

PanARMENIAN.Net - Voting is under way across Pakistan in landmark national and provincial elections, BBC News reports.

The vote marks Pakistan's first transition from one civilian government to another in its 66-year history. However, the run-up to the election has been marred by violence in which more than 100 people have been killed.

A bomb blast in the port city of Karachi on Saturday morning left at least three people dead and several others wounded, officials said.

Tens of thousands of troops are deployed at polling stations after the Pakistani Taliban threatened to carry out suicide attacks.

Hours before polls opened, Pakistan sealed its borders with Iran and Afghanistan in a bid to keep foreign militants at bay. Officials said the borders would remain closed for the next three days.

Queues started forming before polling stations opened at 08:00 (03:00 GMT) on Saturday, May 11.

The Taliban on Friday warned voters to boycott polling stations in order to avoid attacks on the offices of political parties.

The militants have been blamed for numerous attacks throughout the campaign on Pakistan's three most prominent liberal parties.

The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) along with the Karachi-based Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party (ANP) have been singled out for attacks by the Taliban. As a result, the parties were forced to curtail their election campaigning.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Friday expressed "acute concern" about the manner in which the violence has "impaired the fairness of the elections almost beyond repair".

It called on all institutions to "stretch themselves to their absolute limit to ensure security of voters, candidates and polling stations on Saturday so that the people can exercise their right to choose their representatives".

The Taliban threat sparked a major security operation leading up to the vote.

More than 600,000 security and army personnel have been deployed to guard against possible attacks on polling day.

On Thursday, the son of former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani was abducted during a rally.

Opinion polls indicate there could be a record turnout, higher than the 44% in the last elections in 2008.

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