ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN: Voting opened on Wednesday in Pakistan's general elections to choose a new prime minister in the second democratic transition of power in the nation's 70-year chequered history.
According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), 3,459 candidates are contesting for 272 general seats of the National Assembly, while 8,396 candidates are running for 577 general seats of the four provincial assemblies - Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
There are 105.96 million registered voters in the country. The voting started at 8 AM local time on more than 85,000 polling stations. The counting of votes will be done on the spot soon after polling is concluded and results will be announced within 24 hours.
For a smooth polling process, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has deployed around 1.6 staff at polling stations across the country.
About 449,465 policemen and over 370,000 military personnel have been deployed for security. In a special message on Tuesday, Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd.) Sardar Raza Khan urged voters to fulfil their national duty of casting the ballot.
A public holiday has been declared across the country on Wednesday in order to facilitate the voting process. Pakistan's National Assembly comprises a total of 342 members, of which 272 will be directly elected on Wednesday whereas the rest - 60 seats reserved for women and 10 for religious minorities - are selected later through proportional representation among parties with more than five per cent of the vote.
A party can only form the government if it manages to clinch 172 seats in total.