Violence continues ahead of Pakistan polls

Tens of thousands of poll workers and soldiers deployed across the country to keep voters safe and ensure fair voting.

    A candidate standing in Pakistan's general election has been shot dead along with two supporters in the financial capital Karachi on the eve the national election, which also saw the postponement of election in one national assembly seat.

    Shakil Ahmed, a businessman and an independent candidate, was campaigning for Saturday's poll in the Landhi area of Karachi on Friday when the attack took place.

    Ahmed along with two supporters were killed on the spot.

    Khalid Hamid, spokesman for the MQM faction to which Ahmed was aligned, confirmed his death.

    There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the shooting.

    The bloody attack marked the end of the elections campaign, with 127 people killed since mid-April, which the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan called the most violent in the country's history.

    The violence has forced officials to postpone the elections of at least nine national and provincial assembly seats, including one at Kurram Agency, where a deadly attack killed three security personnel, and wounded four others.  

    On the last day of the campaign, Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister, and Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician, addressed rallies.

    Democratic milestone

    Saturday's vote is being seen a democratic milestone in a country ruled for half its history by the military.

    Tens of thousands of polls workers and security personnel have been deployed across the country to ensure the voting is fair and safe, Al Jazeera's Asad Hashim, reporting from Pakistan, said. 

    A deadly attack was reported in Pakistan's northwest on Friday while search continued for the abducted son of Yusuf Raza Gilani, a former prime minister.

    At least three people were killed and 10 others wounded after a motorcycle bomb exploded close to political party offices in North Waziristan’s Miranshah.

    Security officials said Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party led by Khan and right-wing religious party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, an ally of the outgoing government, had offices nearby.

    Witnesses and officials said 15 people were taken to the state-run Miranshah hospital, some of them in a serious condition.

    In the southwest, a low-intensity bomb planted on the roof of the office of a Pakistan People's Party (PPP) candidate in Quetta wounded five people early on Friday, police said.

    At his final rally before the vote, Sharif thanked supporters in the country's second largest city, Lahore, while Khan appealed via a video address at a rally in the capital, Islamabad, for people to come out to vote.

    Sharif is seen as the favourite to become the next prime minister.

    Polls will open at 8am local time and close at 5pm in which more than 86 million people are registered to vote, of which more than 35 million will be exercising their franchise for the first time.

    The voters will elect 272 legislators to the 342-member National Assembly and legislators to four provincial assemblies. 

    Ex-PM's son abducted

    Pakistan's election commission announced that 179 million ballot papers were being distributed to around 70,000 polling stations across the country under army supervision.

    More than 600,000 security personnel, including tens of thousands of soldiers, have been ordered to deploy to guard against attacks on polling day.

    Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder reports from Peshawar

    Security concerns were heightened by the abduction of Gilani's son by armed men while he was campaigning in Multan, in Punjab province, on Thursday.

    Ali Haider Gilani is running as an independent candidate for the provincial assembly, but is a member of the PPP which completed its five years in government.

    The attack left his personal secretary dead and others injured.

    Chaudhry Maqbool Jatt, a police officer, told AFP news agency the abduction was under investigation "from different angles, including the possibility of election rivalry".

    Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Lahore on Friday, said: "At this stage, there is not very much information on the abduction."

    He said the Gilani family told him "there was very little information on who abducted Ali Gilani".

    Many suspect the hand of Pakistan Taliban, though there has not been any claim by the group, which has pledged to sabotage the election.


    SOURCE: Al Jazeera And Agencies


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