Clashes mar Pakistan by-polls

Rival activists clash during vote to fill up vacant parliamentary and assembly seats.

    Gunfire was reported at a 
    women's polling station [AFP]

    It was unclear as to which groups the parties supported.

    'Brought under control'

    The violence came a day after a court postponed voting in a constituency where Nawaz Sharif, the ex-prime minister, was due to stand.

    The Supreme Court first has to decide whether Sharif is eligible to stand.

    Apart from Jehania, polling was peaceful, Pakistan's election commission said.

    Security for the five parliamentary constituencies and 23 provincial assembly seats was tight.

    The seats have been left empty since general elections in February, for different reasons, including unrest.

    Results are expected on Thursday evening, but they will not affect the outcome of the February national poll, during which President Pervez Musharraf was soundly beaten.

    Eligibility

    Sharif was expected to win a parliamentary seat from the eastern city of Lahore until the suspension of the vote on Wednesday.

    A Lahore court ruled on Monday that he was ineligible to stand due to an old criminal conviction that Sharif says was politically motivated.

    Sharif did not attend the hearing as he opposes judges appointed by Musharraf under the state of emergency last November.

    The government had lodged an appeal against the disqualification of Sharif earlier in the week.

    The Supreme Court is due to hold its next hearing into the case on Monday.

    Sharif would be able to seek a third term as prime minister if he wins the seat and it would also put him in a better position to challenge Musharraf.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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