Polling opens in Pakistan’s historic general election

February 18th, 2008 - 10:54 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto
By Devirpa Mitra
Islamabad, Feb 18 (IANS) Under the eye of stringent security, doors opened to polling stations across the country Monday morning to allow Pakistanis to vote in its historic 10th general elections. Polling began at 8 a.m. and will continue till 5 p.m. to allow 80 million voters to exercise their right to elect their representatives to 269 seats in the national assembly and 571 in the provincial assemblies.

Even though government has declared a holiday, the turnout is expected to be low due to fear of terror attacks. About 81,000 soldiers have been posted to guard over 64,000 polling stations around the country.

The elections being held were postponed from Jan 8 after the Dec 27 assassination of former prime minister and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Benazir Bhutto.

After President Pervez Musharraf announced that the elections would be held in January, Bhutto and another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, both of whom had been forced into exile, returned to Pakistan last year to lead their respective opposition parties.

However, Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz , is not allowed to stand for polls. After his wife’s death, Bhutto’s husband Asif Ali Zardari is leading her party’s campaign.

With reports that the result of the general election may be a hung parliament, post-poll talks between the two opposition parties, as well as the ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam, will be closely scrutinized to find out the shape of a future government.

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