Pakistan holds by-elections amid low turnout

June 26th, 2008 - 1:49 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Nawaz Sharif
Islamabad, June 26 (DPA) Pakistanis voted Thursday in low-key by-elections after legal challenges le to the postponement of balloting in one constituency where former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was believed to be a sure-shot winner. The Supreme Court Wednesday put off the by-election in a ward of Lahore in Punjab, while hearing a federal government appeal against Sharif’s disqualification from contesting the by-election over his previous convictions.

The by-elections are being held for five national assembly and 23 provincial assembly seats that have been vacant mainly because of deferment of polls or withdrawals by candidates who won in more than one constituency in the Feb18 general vote.

A low turnout was registered by midday as a few acts of violence were reported during the largely peaceful polls.

At least four voters were injured when gunfire broke out outside a polling station in the town of Jahanian, about 350 km south-west of Lahore, the Aaj news channel reported.

Another media report said women were not allowed to cast their ballots in the north-western district of Mardan, which has a conservative Pashtun population.

Balloting started at 8 a.m. (0200 GMT) and is to continue until 5 p.m. (1100 GMT).

Opponents of President Pervez Musharraf, who assumed power in a 1999 bloodless military coup against Sharif’s government, scored an outright win in the February vote, pushing the beleaguered former general further into a tight corner.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto secured the highest number of seats in the lower house of parliament, followed by Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Lacking a clear majority, the PPP formed a coalition government in March with the PML-N as its key partner.

Thursday’s by-elections would not disturb the balance of power in parliament.

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