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Voting Begins in Pakistan's General Election; Independents Outnumber Candidates Fielded by Parties

While polling stations officially opened for voting at 8am, enthusiastic citizens queued up outside their respective stations as early as 7am.

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Updated:July 25, 2018, 9:46 AM IST
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Voting Begins in Pakistan's General Election; Independents Outnumber Candidates Fielded by Parties
People stand in a line as they wait for a polling station to open, during general election in Rawalpindi, Pakistan July 25, 2018. (Photo: REUTERS)
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Islamabad: Pakistanis began voting on Wednesday in a knife-edge general election between former cricketer Imran Khan against the party of jailed ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Reuters witnesses and national media reported.

Most forecasters are predicting a hung parliament that will require a coalition government as the razor thin polling lead by Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party over Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is unlikely to result in a majority from the 272 elected seats in the National Assembly.

According to DawnNewsTV, the first vote has already been cast — in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Charsadda.

While polling stations officially opened for voting at 8am, enthusiastic citizens queued up outside their respective stations as early as 7am. PML-N Chief Shahbaz Sharif was among the first people to cast his vote, according to DawnNewsTV. Speaking to the media outside the polling station in Model Town, Lahore, he requested that people come out and vote for PML-N.

At 371,388, a record number of troops have been deployed at polling stations at the Election Commission of Pakistan’s request to maintain law and order and take action against harassment.

According to the Commission, green ballot papers represent National Assembly candidates while white ballot papers represent provincial assembly candidates.

In all, 11,673 candidates are in the run, 3,428 for National Assembly and 8,245 for provincial assembly seats.

The statistics shared with the media reveal that independent candidates outnumber the candidates fielded by political parties. The number of candidates fielded by parties is 5,661 while the number of independent candidates in the race is 6,012.

Questions have been raised over the role of the armed forces in the polling process; restrictions being placed on the media; participation of banned groups; NAB pressure on election candidates as well as the detention of political workers in the run-up to the polls.

Polling stations will remain open for voting till 6pm, as per the deadline announced by the ECP for voters.

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