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Pakistan elections 2024: Five police officers killed after gunmen open fire in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Pakistan has imposed a nationwide clampdown on mobile internet services and temporarily shut some of its borders as voting was underway. Like previous elections, the security situation in Pakistan is fragile, particularly after twin blasts in Balochistan on Wednesday that killed 30.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Islamabad Updated on: February 08, 2024 15:49 IST
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Image Source : AP People line up to cast their votes in Pakistan amid tight security.

Pakistan elections 2024: As many as five security personnel were killed after unidentified gunmen opened fire in a district in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Thursday, as voting was underway in the country amid a countrywide mobile internet shutdown. No one claimed responsibility for the attack but the area is known to be stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban which routinely targets police forces.

Local police official Khalid Khan said the officers were assigned to security duty in the Dera Ismail Khan district during parliamentary elections held on Thursday. The gunmen set off a bomb and opened fire at a police van, killing five and wounding two others, he said. This comes after gunmen fired on troops in the town of Kot Azam, killing a soldier, police official Fiyyaz Khan said. Again, no one immediately claimed responsibility for that attack.

Amid elaborate security measures for the violence-prone elections in Pakistan, the caretaker government imposed a nationwide clampdown on mobile internet services and temporarily closed some of its land borders, given the surge in militant violence. The decision comes after a series of attacks on polling stations and offices of independent candidates even a day before the country was scheduled to elect a new Prime Minister. 

Unidentified assailants threw hand grenades at two polling stations in restive southwestern Baluchistan province, where twin bombings hit separate election offices on Wednesday, killing at least 30 people and wounding 50 others. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for both bombings. The grenades on Thursday caused panic among voters but no one was hurt, police said.

Pakistan's parliamentary elections

Pakistan votes on Thursday in an election scarred by rising militant attacks, an economic crisis and a deeply polarised political environment, and many analysts believe no clear winner may emerge. Imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan called on his supporters to wait outside polling booths after voting until results are announced. 

Unofficial first results in the Pakistan election are expected a few hours after voting closes at 5 p.m. (1200 GMT) and a clear picture is likely to emerge early on Friday. The main contests are expected to be between candidates backed by Imran, whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party won the last Pakistan election, and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) of three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, who is considered the front-runner. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 35-year-old son of former premier Benazir Bhutto, has also run an aggressive campaign in an outside bid for the top office.

Analysts say there may be no clear winner but the powerful generals could play a role. The military has dominated the nuclear-armed country either directly or indirectly in its 76 years of independence but for several years it has maintained it does not interfere in politics. "The deciding factor is which side the powerful military and its security agencies are on," said Abbas Nasir, a columnist.

If the Pakistan election does not result in a clear majority for anyone, as analysts are predicting, tackling multiple challenges will be tricky - foremost being seeking a new bailout programme from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after the current one expires in March. Smaller political parties could play a crucial role in the formation of a government that will need 169 seats in the 336-member National Assembly.

There are 5,121 candidates contesting for the federal legislature and 12,695 for the provinces. Once a prime ministerial candidate wins the vote in the National Assembly, they are sworn in as prime minister. The new prime minister picks cabinet ministers, who form the federal government. A similar process is followed at the provincial level to pick a chief minister and a provincial government.

(with inputs from agencies)

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