ISLAMABAD, Pakistan : Polling officially ended across Pakistan at 6 p.m. local time (1300 GMT) on Wednesday after millions took part in the country’s general elections held under tight security.
The vote count has begun, a process that may last until the next day. Results of the election that allowed people to elect candidates for the lower house of the parliament – National Assembly – and the four national assemblies is expected to be announced Thursday.
Earlier on Wednesday, all major political parties, including Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz Sharif group (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Awami National Party (ANP) and Awami Muslim League (AML) had urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to extend the polling time by an hour until 7 p.m. (1400 GMT). However, the ECP rejected their requests, saying the time had already been extended from 5 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.
Pakistanis had cast their votes for 272 general seats of the National Assembly and 577 general seats of the country’s four provincial assemblies.
Around 50 political and religious parties took part in the election, which had been marked by allegations of manipulation and engineering.
Also on Wednesday, at least 31 people were killed and 30 others injured in a suspected suicide attack outside a polling station in Quetta, southwestern Pakistan.
Moreover, one person was killed and five others injured in an armed clash between activists of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Awami National Party (ANP) in Swabi district of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Also, for the first time in the country’s history, thousands of women in remote Dir district and tribal districts of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province had cast their votes. In the past, political parties had barred women from the region to take part in the election, however, this time the ECP announced that the results of those constituencies would be declared null and void where at least 10 percent of women do not cast their votes.
– Khan vote controversy
Meanwhile, the ECP took notice of an alleged violation of code of conduct in general elections by PTI Chairman Imran Khan, who had stamped his ballot paper in front of the media in capital Islamabad on Wednesday.
According to local broadcaster Geo News, the commission took notice of the incident and summoned Khan on July 30.
According to the country’s election laws, any person who violates the secrecy of vote could face a six-month jail sentence and/or fine of 1,000 rupees ($7.75).