At least five people were killed in an insurgent attack after Pakistan temporarily suspended mobile phone services and closed some land borders across the country to maintain law and order as it held general elections on Thursday. Died.
The Ministry of Interior announced the move after two explosions near the offices of election candidates in southwestern Balochistan province on Wednesday killed at least 26 people.
Islamic State later claimed responsibility for these attacks.
In a post on messaging platform ”.
Thousands of troops were deployed to streets and polling stations across the country, and the border with Iran and Afghanistan was temporarily closed.
Four police officers were killed in a bomb attack and gunfire targeting police on patrol in the Krachi area of Dera Ismail Khan district in the northwestern region, local police chief Rauf Kaislani said.
Gunmen opened fire on a security forces vehicle in a tank about 40 miles north, killing one person.
Grenade attacks were also reported in various parts of Balochistan province, but did not affect the polls as there were no casualties, Makran division chief Syed Ahmed Umrani told Reuters.
Despite safety concerns and the bitter winter cold, long lines began forming at polling places hours before voting was scheduled to begin. “Why should I be late when the country is in crisis?” said Mumtaz, an 86-year-old housewife who is 10 years older than Pakistan, as she waited in line in Islamabad. .
In addition to violence by armed groups, the election is being held amid a deep economic crisis and a highly polarized political environment, with many analysts predicting there will be no clear winner.
The move to shut down mobile networks drew criticism from opposition leaders, with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 35, of the Pakistan People’s Party, demanding “immediate restoration”.
“(I) have requested the party to approach both the ECP (Election Commission of Pakistan) and the courts for this purpose,” he posted on X.
Election Commission Chairman Sikandar Sultan Raja said the decision on mobile networks was taken by “law and order institutions” in the wake of Wednesday’s violence and the commission would not intervene in the matter.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, led by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan, said in a post on urged the public to remove passwords from their Wi-Fi accounts.
Some voters expressed anger at the move to cut off mobile service.
“This has made it very difficult to communicate with voters and others… We are facing so many problems due to the internet shutdown,” said a school that voted in Rawalpindi city. said Mehmood Chaudhry, 50, a teacher.
The network’s outage follows calls for supporters of Imran Khan, who clashed with security forces last year to protest his arrest, to wait outside polling stations until the results are announced.
Mr Khan cast his vote by post from a prison in Rawalpindi on Thursday morning, the party’s media team told Reuters.
The first unofficial results of the election are expected hours after voting closes at 5 p.m., and a clearer picture is likely to emerge early Friday morning.
The main battle is between a candidate backed by Khan, who won the last national election, and the Pakistan Muslim League, led by three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who is considered the frontrunner. It is expected.
Analysts say there may be no clear winner and a strong military could play a role, but Sharif stressed the need for a “clear majority.”
“Let’s not talk about a coalition government. It is very important for the government to have a clear majority and it should not depend on other countries,” Sharif told reporters after the vote in the eastern city of Lahore.
The military has ruled the nuclear-armed state directly or indirectly for 76 years since independence, but in recent years has insisted it does not interfere in politics.
Columnist Abbas Nasir said: “The decisive factor is which side the powerful military and its security services will take.” “Only a huge vote in favor of (Mr. Khan’s) PTI can change its fate.”
He added: “The economic challenges are so deep and significant, and the solutions so painful, that I wonder how anyone in power will steady the ship.” I’m not sure,” he added.
If, as analysts predict, no one can win a clear majority in the elections, it will be difficult to tackle multiple challenges. Most importantly, it will seek a new rescue program from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after the current one expires in March.