Pakistan’s by-elections conclude, counting begins (Lead)

June 26th, 2008 - 8:46 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Nawaz Sharif
Islamabad, June 26 (Xinhua) By-elections to Pakistan’s five National Assembly seats and 23 provincial assembly seats concluded Thursday and counting of votes began, Geo TV channel reported. Though sporadic violence was reported in some polling stations, foreign observers who visited various polling stations during the polls expressed satisfaction over facilities provided by the government.

The Geo TV quoted observer group members as saying that security was beefed up and low voter turnout was observed in the morning.

Around 4,300 police officials were deployed to guard 562 polling stations in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, near capital Islamabad, the police said.

The polling in a constituency in Lahore, from where former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was to contest, has been postponed after he was barred by a lower court from contesting in the polls.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear an appeal on Sharif’s disqualification at the end of the month.

As many as 171 candidates are vying for the 12 vacant seats of the Punjab assembly, 68 for seven North West Frontier Province seats, 25 for three Balochistan seats and eight candidates for the single seat of the Sindh assembly.

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

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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