Political campaigns conclude, Pakistan all set for upcoming general elections

Political campaigns conclude, Pakistan all set for upcoming general elections

ISLAMABAD (Rahnuma) : –– Political parties in Pakistan have concluded their weeks-long campaigns for the country’s general elections scheduled on Wednesday, which would elect the members of the National Assembly, lower house of the country’s parliament, and of the four provincial assemblies.

Leaders of the major political parties, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), or Pakistan Justice Movement in English, and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) conducted hectic tours around the country to address the public rallies as part of their exuberant and extravaganza election campaigns.

Following the code of conduct issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), all the mainstream and regional parties and individual candidates concluded their campaigns on Monday night. Any violation of the code of conduct might lead a candidate to a hefty fine, two years imprisonment and disqualification from the polls.

The ECP had finalized 3,459 candidates to contest for 272 general seats of the National Assembly, and 8,396 for 577 general seats of the four provincial assemblies, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh. However, elections on two National Assembly seats and six provincial assembly seats have been postponed due to multiple reasons, including the death of six candidates.

Three out of the six deceased candidates were killed in terrorist attacks at their rallies in different areas earlier this month. The attacks have left over 170 people dead and 200 others wounded.

Pakistan’s lower house, having a five-year term, is an elected body consisting of a total of 342 members, of which 272 are directly elected by the people, while 60 seats are reserved for women and 10 for religious minorities.

According to the ECP, 105.96 million voters are eligible to cast their vote in the elections, of which 59.22 million are male voters.

The former government led by the PML-N concluded its five-year term on May 31 and handed the charge over to an interim government led by incumbent Prime Minister Nasir-ul-Mulk to run the country till the formation of the next elected government.

Several dozen parties are taking part in the elections, but the contest will be mainly among the three major parties, PML-N of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, PTI of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and PPP of former President Asif Zardari.

Several other influential regional parties and nationalist groups are also contesting the elections, but with a limited scope. They include Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Awami National Party, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, Balochistan National Party and some other nationalist groups.

Aslam Khan, a senior political analyst of Urdu Daily Nawa-i-Waqt, told Xinhua that the real competition would be between PML-N and PTI for the 174 National Assembly seats in the eastern Punjab province which always played a vital role to decide the formation of the government.

Imran Khan concluded his campaign in the eastern provincial capital of Lahore, and Bilawal Bhutto, chairman of the PPP, summed up his drive in southern Sindh province, while PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif wrapped up his movement in Punjab’s Dera Ghazi Khan district.

Shahbaz is running the party in the absence of Nawaz Sharif who has been jailed earlier this month for 10 years in a case of assets beyond declared income sources.

The PTI chief, who is mainly focusing on his fight against corruption, promised to bring improvement in the sectors of health, education, taxation, agriculture and employment, while PML-N leadership vowed to continue their development agenda like what they have done during their last five-year rule by improving infrastructure.

Several recent surveys conducted by international and local organization predicted a close contest between PTI and PML-N.

PPP, which had mostly dominated Sindh province, might face a real challenge from the Grand Democratic Alliance, a union of different political parties and nationalist groups, the surveys predicted.

Aslam Khan believed that a split mandate could likely emerge from the elections and the single largest party, either PML-N or PTI, will have to seek the support of other small groups and independent victorious candidates for a coalition government.

The process of distribution of election material, including ballot papers and ballot boxes, to concerned polling officers, has already started under strict security measures across the country.

As part of the special security arrangements made by the government for the elections, Pakistan army has completed deployment 371,388 security personnel at 85,300 polling stations across the country as an aid to civilian law enforcement agencies to ensure security.

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