Election officials check data of voters at a polling station in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, on July 25, 2018. Pakistanis started casting votes in the country's one-day general elections commenced on Wednesday morning, which would elect the members of the National Assembly, the lower house of the country's parliament, and of the four provincial assemblies. (Xinhua/Ahmad Kamal)
ISLAMABAD, July 25 (Xinhua) -- Pakistanis started casting votes in the country's one-day general elections commenced on Wednesday morning, which would elect the members of the National Assembly, the lower house of the country's parliament, and of the four provincial assemblies.
People were reaching polling stations in the morning to participate in the process to elect a new government for the next five years with hopes of bringing economic progress and stability in the country.
The polling started at 8:00 a.m. local time in the morning and will continue uninterrupted till 6:00 p.m. local time in the evening.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had finalized 3,459 candidates to contest for 272 general seats of the National Assembly, and 8,396 for 577 general seats of the four provincial assemblies, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh.
However, the number of contestants for the lower house and the provincial assemblies have dropped to 3,428 and 8,245, respectively, after elections on two National Assembly seats and six provincial assembly seats have been postponed due to multiple reasons, including the death of some candidates. While a candidate for the provincial assembly of southern Sindh province has already been declared winner unopposed.
Pakistan's lower house consists of a total of 342 members, of which 272 are directly elected, while 60 seats are reserved for women and 10 for religious minorities.
The ECP said that over 105.95 million registered voters, including 59.22 million male and 46.73 female voters, will be able to cast their votes in the elections.
Several dozen parties are taking part in the elections, but the contest will be mainly among the three major parties, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf and former President Asif Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party, according to survey reports recently released by the Topline Securities, Pulse Consultants, Gallup Pakistan, Herald Magazine and Credit Suisse.
To maintain the law and order situation during the elections process, overall 820,000 security personnel have been deployed, of which 371,000 are from Pakistan army and 450,000 are from civilian law enforcement agencies.
Leaders of all major political parties are urging the people to come out to vote and play their role to elect the new government.
Pakistan's caretaker Information Minister Syed Ali Zafar, in his recorded message telecasted at televisions, asked countrymen to exercise their right to vote freely and without any fear.
"All stakeholders, including the Election Commission of Pakistan, had actively played their role for transparent and impartial elections. The fate and progress of the country are in hands of the people who have the opportunity to cast their vote thoughtfully and without any fear," said the minister.