Islamabad: Pakistan`s biggest ever by-polls for 41 national and provincial assembly constituencies ended today with many women unable to vote in the elections in which the ruling PML-N is expected to have an upper hand.
The polling began at 8 am (local time) and ended peacefully at 5 pm. In all, 522 candidates are contesting for 15 National Assembly and 26 provincial assembly seats.
Counting of votes begun shortly after polling ended and unofficial results are expected during the night.
In most constituencies, a neck and neck contest is expected between the ruling PML-N and Imran Khan`s Tehrik-e-Insaf.
Political observers say that the ruling party is likely to have an upper hand.
Most seats where by-polls were held had been vacated by winners of more than one constituency, while others fell vacant because of disqualification of candidates by courts.
Polls in some constituencies were not held during the May 11 general election due to death of candidates.
The Election Commission set up 7,606 polling stations, with around 1,800 classified as sensitive and over 1,500 as highly sensitive, where armed forces personnel were deployed.
There were around 8.5 million registered voters in these constituencies.
However, reports said women were stopped from exercising their right to franchise in several constituencies of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
Some areas where women were stopped included National Assembly constituencies in Lakki Marwat and Nowshera, and Mianwali in Punjab.
In Phalia, women did not cast their votes after a panchayat passed an order against their right to franchise.
The poll panel contacted candidates in Lakki Marwat after receiving complaints on phone that women were being barred from casting their ballots.
The Chief Justice of Peshawar High Court took notice of the situation, following which women were allowed to cast their votes in Nowshera.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission spokesman said stopping women from voting is a crime and the panel will count votes of women and men separately. The panel directed all returning officers to compile the record of women votes separately.
The Election Commission postponed polls in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank due to security concerns.
The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had warned it would kidnap or kill women of Hangu in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa who took part in the by-election. The threat by the Taliban was conveyed through leaflets found by people in Hangu bazaar today.