Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Pakistan cricket star Imran Khan leads amid slow vote count

Bharatkumar Raut- Imran Khan playing mostly with first-timers Afghan President invites Imran to visit Kabul
Gerardo Duncan | 26 July, 2018, 16:41

The election comes as Pakistan's economy is in crisis, with the rupee's 20 percent decline spiking inflation and dwindling foreign currency reserves likely to force the second International Monetary Fund bailout since 2013. The PTI and ruling PML-N are thought to be neck and neck in the elections.

Khan, whose appeal rests mainly on a fierce anti-corruption crusade, took the lead as the unofficial results started to come in on Wednesday night.

The Election Commission rejected the allegations as baseless, with secretary Babar Yaqoob telling reporters that parties had not provided any evidence to back up their claims.

The Pakistani election has been marred by allegations of fraud and militant violence after voters took to the polls on Wednesday.

According to AFP, Gallup Pakistan estimated voter turnout at between 50 to 55 per cent in an electorate of almost 106 million - similar to the previous contest in 2013. More than 19 million new voters, including millions of women and young people, may prove decisive in the close race. At least 31 people were killed in a suicide bombing outside a polling station in the southwestern Baluchistan province.

As voting ended, festive supporters of both parties gathered outside polling stations, dancing to the beat of drums.

"This is complete chaos", analyst Azeema Cheema told AFP.

Debris, bloodstains and charred vehicles littered the road outside the polling station as the dead and injured were rushed to hospital accompanied by distraught loved ones. One person was killed in a grenade attack in Khuzdar, Balochistan province, and another in a shooting between rival politicians in Swabi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The vote was a rare democratic transition in the populous but poor nuclear-armed Muslim country, which has been ruled by the powerful military for roughly half its history. Jailed former premier Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz trailed with 61 seats and the Pakistan Peoples Party led in 40, with the other rest split among smaller parties. Sharif was convicted by an anti-corruption court and returned to the country to offer himself for arrest, alongside his daughter Maryam, on July 13.

About 371,000 soldiers were stationed at polling stations across the country during voting on July 25, almost five times the number deployed at the last election in 2013.

In his first press conference after declaring victory in the Pakistan elections, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan on Thursday touched upon the Kashmir dispute.

"I will fully cooperate in scrutinising as many constituencies as opposition parties want", he added. Radical Islamic terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) claimed responsibility for the deadly blast, according to the group's propaganda outlet, the Amaq News Agency. The media, activists and think tanks have decried a "silent coup" by the generals.

The military has rejected the accusations. He did not say who he believes could have rigged the polls, but allegations of manipulating the elections have been made against the country's influential military. Journalists were barred from entering polling stations in Lahore and Rawalpindi at several points throughout the day. PML-N alleged that the proceedings and the outcome of the case was influenced by the Pakistani military.

Less than two weeks before polling day, Sharif returned to Pakistan from the United Kingdom to face a ten year sentence for corruption that made him ineligible from participating in politics.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of slain prime minister Benazir Bhutto and religious alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) are also in the running.

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