A suicide bomber struck outside a crowded polling station in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Quetta, killing 31 people as Pakistanis cast ballots in a general election meant to lead to the nation’s third consecutive civilian government.
The Deputy Inspector General Abdul Razzal Cheema said the injured have been shifted to the Sandeman Provincial Hospital.
Pakistan citizens went to the polls a few hours before the blast amid heavy security following the assassination of a candidate.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said it was “gravely concerned” about violence being directed against candidates during the campaign, warning “election gatherings must not become killing fields.”
This week’s election will be only the second time since Pakistan became independent 70-years ago that power has been transferred peacefully from one government to another. It all goes to plan.
The opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Kahn is looking to unseat the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which was formally led by the now imprisoned ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
The run up to today has been shadowed by increasing tensions over allegations the country’s military has secretly backed Mr Khan.
Earlier election violence saw a suicide bomber in Balochistan kill 150 people – including one of Mr Khan’s party candidates Ikramullah Gandapur.
The main problem for the ruling PML’N’s campaign is that since the ousting of its leader Mr Sharif who was jailed over corruption allegations, his less charismatic brother has been running the party’s campaign. Candidates from the party claim they’ve been targeted by the military.
More than 30 political parties and 12,570 candidates are in the running to sway close to 106-million registered voters who will elect both the national and four provincial assemblies.
The Pakistan People’s Party is also expected to pick up seats as is the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of right wing religious parties.
Sixty seats are reserved for women and ten for minorities which are decided on a basis of five-percent proportional representation.
About 800,000 security personnel and 370,000 army soldiers are watching over election day to ensure a free, fair and transparent vote for the people of Pakistan.
The polls close at 6pm local time, which is 11pm tonight AEST. (Courtesy Nine News)