Election officials count ballots after polls closed during the general election in Islamabad, Pakistan, July 25, 2018.
Election officials count ballots after polls closed during the general election in Islamabad, Pakistan, July 25, 2018.

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - The polls have closed and vote counting is underway in Pakistan where nearly 106 million people cast their ballots in Wednesday's violence-marred general elections.

Just hours after voting began, a powerful suicide blast outside a polling stations in Quetta, capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, killed more than 31 people and wounded 40 others.

Pakistani security personnel visit the site of bom
Pakistani security personnel visit the site of bombing in Quetta, Pakistan, July 25, 2018.

The radical Islamic State took responsibility for plotting the carnage.

Police said the victims included voters, police personnel and political party activists.

Volunteers rush injured persons to a hospital in P
Volunteers rush injured persons to a hospital in Pakistan's southwestern city of Quetta, July 25, 2018, after a suicide bomber struck outside a crowded polling station.

Baluchistan

Separately, a military spokesman confirmed gunmen ambushed a convoy of polling staff and troops in a remote Baluchistan town near the border with Iran. The attack killed three troops and a civilian election official while 14 people, including 10 security forces, were wounded.

Elsewhere in Pakistan, police confirmed armed clashes between members of rival political parties during Wednesday's vote also killed at least two people and injured several others.

Baluchistan, Pakistan

Baluchistan is where an Islamic State bomber attacked an election rally earlier this month and killed 151 people, including a provincial assembly candidate.

Wednesday's voting caps a bitter general election campaign plagued by violence and allegations of interference by the country's powerful military establishment.

Khan vs, Sharif

Pakistani politician Imran Khan, center, chief of
Pakistani politician Imran Khan, center, chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, casts his vote at a polling station for the parliamentary elections in Islamabad, Pakistan, July 25, 2018.

The election has narrowed to a contest between ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's former ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led by former cricket star Imran Khan, who has pledged to eliminate corruption and create a "Islamic welfare state."

The PML-N has accused the military of helping Khan and the PTI to win the election, a charge Khan and the military have strongly denied. The military has ruled the Muslim-majority nation of more than 200 million people for nearly half of the country's 70-year-history.

The PML-N's electoral chances have also been shaken by Nawaz Sharif's conviction in absentia earlier this month on corruption charges involving expensive properties he and his family held overseas.

Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sits
Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sits on a plane after landing at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, Pakistan, July 13, 2018.

Sharif, who was immediately placed in custody after returning from Britain nearly two weeks ago, has denounced the verdict as politically motivated and accused a covert military-judiciary alliance of trying to keep him out of politics and undermining the integrity of his PML-N party.

The campaign leading up to the vote has been marred by violence that have left more than 170 people dead. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and police have been deployed to provide security at more than 85,000 polling stations across Pakistan.

 

WATCH: Pakistan's Contentious Election Draws to a Close

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Neither the PML-N nor the PTI are expected to win a majority in the 342-seat National Assembly, lower house of parliament, meaning whoever wins will have to enter into negotiations with smaller parties to form a coalition government.

Voters elect 272 members to the parliament while the other 70 are reserved for women and minorities and are given to various political parties based on their percentage of winning seats.

Wednesday's election is just Pakistan's third peaceful transition of power.