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Pakistan Seals Border for Afghan Elections

Pakistan sealed its border with Afghanistan and put security forces on high alert until Friday, as Afghans voted in national elections Thursday.

The decision stopped supply trucks for NATO forces from entering Afghanistan. But Pakistan says Afghans who had special passes from their embassy allowing them to vote were allowed to cross.

No provisions for voting were set up for the estimated 860,000 official Afghan refugees of voting age living in Pakistan.

The United Nations says more than one million Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan after fleeing civil war and Taliban rule in their homeland. Hundreds of thousands more are believed to be in Pakistan illegally.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told reporters Thursday the Pakistani government hopes that elections in Afghanistan will bring stability to its neighbor, adding that the fates of the two countries are intertwined.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said an announced change in the leadership of Pakistan's Taliban movement, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, is a sign of deepening rifts among the militant group and further proof that its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed earlier this month in a U.S. air strike.

Taliban spokesmen have repeatedly denied his death, saying only that he is ill.

Also Thursday, the Pakistani army says 60 militants, including a close associate of fugitive radical Islamic cleric Maulana Fazlullah, voluntarily surrendered in northwestern Swat Valley, where troops have waged an offensive to clear the region of Taliban militants.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.