ISLAMABAD: Amid unprecedented security, Pakistan will vote on Wednesday to elect a new National Assembly and provincial assemblies, already marred with terror attacks and accusations of interference by the military during campaign stages. The polling process will start at 8:00 AM and end at 6:00 PM on Wednesday. Over 1,2000 candidates are in the fray for 270 national and 570 provincial assembly seats.
As many as 105.96 million people will be able to use their right to vote. Twenty-three percent of the total voters would be taking part in the exercise for the first time. Nearly 85,000 polling booths have been set up across the country as compared to 930,000 polling stations in India during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The countrywide election campaign, marred by a string of terrorist attacks, came to an end on Tuesday as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) — the two leading political parties culminated their respective poll drives in Punjab.
Pakistan saw intense campaigning ahead of the polls by candidates from key parties, namely Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan's Peoples Party(PPP).
As many as 800,000 law enforcement and army personnel have been deployed across the length and breadth of the nation to ensure a safe election.
Taking into account the wave of violence witnessed in the run-up to the elections, Peshawar's deputy commissioner has arranged 1,000 kafans (burial shroud) as a pre-emptive measure.
The troops have been deployed to provide mandated assistance to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to conduct polls, according to a statement by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
The logistical arrangements for polling booths are being carried out under the supervision of deployed troops.
Around 220 million ballot papers have been printed for the election. The colour of ballot paper for the National Assembly is green, whereas white coloured paper shall be used for the Provincial Assembly.
More than 17,000 polling stations have been declared sensitive across Pakistan, while CCTV cameras have also been installed at the polling stations, reported Geo TV.
In the previous elections, PML-N, led by former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, emerged as the largest party with 166 seats out of a total of 342 in the National Assembly.
Although the seats were short of a majority, Sharif was able to form a government after several independents joined his party.
However, Sharif was disqualified as the Prime Minister and as a Member of the National Assembly in July last year after the Panama Papers case decision.
After Sharif's disqualification, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was elected as 18th Prime Minister of Pakistan by the National Assembly in August 2017.
(With Agency inputs)
While the country is gearing up for the polls, Nawaz and his daughter, Maryam, are currently lodged in Rawalpindi's Adiala jail, after being convicted in the Avenfield reference case.