N to change Pakistan's destiny, vows Shehbaz Sharif after casting vote

N to change Pakistan's destiny, vows Shehbaz Sharif after casting vote”

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing but local officials were quick to blame the Islamic State group.

Quetta is in Pakistan's southern Baluchistan province, which also saw the deadliest suicide bombing in the run-up to election day, with 149 people, including a provincial assembly candidate, killed at a campaign rally this month.

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.

At 29, Bhutto-Zardari has little experience and the chance of election victory for his family's Pakistan Peoples Party is deemed nearly nil - though he could become kingmaker in a coalition if the PML-N or the PTI fail to win an outright majority.

The blast came as Pakistan's parties concluded their electoral appeals following one of the fiercest and bloodiest general election campaign ever recorded in the country.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan cast his vote at a polling station in Bhara Kahu, NA-53 (Islamabad II).

The Pakistan People's Party (PPP), with young scion Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at its helm, is also competing nationally, along with other parties.

"I think you could have a complete collapse in terms of ability to form a government right after the election", said Moeed Yusuf, a Pakistani analyst at the United States Institute of Peace, a Washington think tank.

"Now the army, the intelligence agencies and the judiciary are taking sides", said PML-N voter Tariq Ateeq Sheikh, 50, a property dealer in Lahore's Walton neighbourhood.

Imran Khan has traded his cricket flannels for political life
Camera Icon Imran Khan has traded his cricket flannels for political

Wednesday's attack comes as Pakistanis vote in general elections for 270 members of the law-making National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, and 577 seats in four provincial assemblies.

The early reports suggest that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is leading in 97 seats of the National Assembly, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in 62, Pakistan Peoples Party in 28, independent candidates in 23, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal in seven, and Grant Democratic Alliance in seven.

Results will trickle in after polling ends, with the outcome expected early Thursday, according to election officials.

"We are free from the terror we have lived under for the last 35 years", said Muhammad Anwar.

Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa cast his vote in Rawalpindi.

The military, which has ruled Pakistan for almost half of its 71-year history, denies any effort to influence the election.

A suicide bomber, acting alone, tried to enter a polling station on the eastern outskirts of Quetta, capital of the southwestern Balochistan province, but blew himself up when he was tackled by security personnel, local broadcaster Express News reported.

Most of the casualties were voters. The European Union Election Observation Mission has 120 monitors at polling stations in major centres across Pakistan, with the exception of Baluchistan. A further 70 seats for women and minorities are awarded proportionally based on the voting percentages.

However, the PML-N could reap a sympathy vote after Nawaz Sharif returned to be arrested on July 13 along with his daughter Maryam, leaving his cancer-stricken wife in a London hospital.

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