Imran Khan, Shehbaz Sharif, Bilawal Bhutto, battle for power as Pakistan goes for polls today

25 Jul 2018 07:32 AM

Imran Khan, Shehbaz Sharif, Bilawal Bhutto, battle for power as Pakistan goes for polls today

Updated 25 Jul 2018 07:32 AM

Pakistanis will go to the polls tomorrow to elect a new prime minister in the second democratic transition of power in the nation's 70-year chequered history amid accusations of manipulation by the powerful army and concerns over the participation of Islamic hardliners in large numbers.
According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), 3,459 candidates are contesting for 272 general seats of the National Assembly, while 8,396 candidates are running for 577 general seats of the four provincial assemblies - Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
There are 105.96 million registered voters in the country. The voting on more than 85,000 polling stations will start at 8.00 am and will continue till 6.00 pm. The counting of votes will be done on the spot soon after polling is concluded and results will be announced within 24 hours.
The run up to the elections have seen a massive crackdown on the media and allegations that the military has secretly backed the campaign of former cricketer Imran Khan while targeting his political opponents.
The military has ruled Pakistan through various coups for nearly half of the country's history since independence in 1947. Even during the civilian rule, the generals have wielded enormous power, setting the agenda for the country's foreign and security policies.
Questions were raised about the role of the military after reports that it was given magisterial powers. The ECP was also criticised for deploying the Army both inside and outside of polling stations.
Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa, however, assured that soldiers deployed for election duties would strictly comply with the code of conduct given by the ECP.
He also said the Army will only perform a facilitative role in the polls and that the polling process is to remain under the control and authority of the ECP.
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the supremo of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) who was jailed this month after being convicted in a corruption case, also accused the military of pressuring the judiciary to convict him. Both institutions deny the charge.

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