World News

Pakistani Elections: High Security, Strong Turnout

Voters in Pakistan are casting ballots for lawmakers in the National Assembly in a historic election that will see a transition from one civilian administration that finished a full term in office to another civilian administration.

A VOA reporter on the scene says security was high much of the day, after a series of violent events in the lead-up to the election.

Scattered incidents of violence left at least 14 people dead on Saturday.

Twin bomb blasts in Karachi killed at least 10 people at a political campaign office for the Awami National Party, one of the parties targeted for attacks by the Taliban. Shootings in the southwestern province of Baluchistan left at least four others dead.

A huge turnout took place at polling stations across the country while relatively few attacks have taken place on election day.

More than 100 people have been killed and scores injured since late April in attacks, as the Taliban sought to undermine the election. Taliban members had warned of suicide attacks on election day.

Pakistani politician and former cricketer Imran Khan is leading the PTI party and creating a challenge to the two parties that long dominated Pakistani politics. But Khan, who is popular with Pakistan's younger voters, suffered a fall earlier this week and is in a hospital, not able to make campaign appearances.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif leads the Pakistan Muslim League, which is expected to take the majority of votes as candidates compete in the National Assembly.

Public opinion polls indicate that the Pakistan People's Party is trailing its two competitors. The PPP's most prominent member is President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Winners of the 272 seats in Saturday's parliamentary elections will be tasked with leading a country suffering from periodic power failures, a poor economy, a Taliban insurgency and political corruption.



Bombings on Friday killed at least four people and wounded 18 others.

The four died in a blast near political party offices in North Waziristan - a Taliban and al-Qaida stronghold. Thirteen people were wounded.

A blast in the southwestern part of the country wounded five more people outside an office being used by the Pakistan People's Party.

No one has claimed responsibility for the bombings.

Pakistan's military says it is deploying thousands of troops to polling stations and counting centers.

The recent bombings of two rallies of a leading Islamic party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam strengthened views the Taliban is opposed to democracy and is targeting anyone taking part in the elections.

On Thursday, the last day of campaigning, militants kidnapped Ali Haider Gilani in Punjab province. He is the son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani who is running for a provincial assembly seat.

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