New Delhi, July 24: Pakistan is all set to elect its next civilian government, both at the national and provincial level in the general election marred by number of controversies, terror attacks and accusations of interference by the military. Notably, polling will begin at 8 AM across the 85,000 booths on Wednesday and will continue till 6 PM in the evening. Also Read - Pakistan PM Imran Khan, Other World Leaders Express Solidarity as India Battles COVID Crisis

The counting of votes is expected to begin soon after polling and the winner will be announced within 24 hours after the elections. Also Read - 'Onus On Men': Imran Khan's Ex-wife On Pakistan PM's 'Vulgarity' Rape Remark

To ensure peaceful voting,  security has been beefed up across the country. Around 1.6 million electoral staff will be on duty on polling day. Nearly half a million police personnel will be deployed, out of which 202,100 will be posted in Punjab and Islamabad and 100,500 in Sindh. Also Read - Pakistan Cabinet Rejects Proposal to Import Cotton And Sugar From India: Minister

About Parties, Seats And Candidates

Over 100 political parties are in the fray for 272 seats in the National Assembly. To form the government, a party needs to have at least 137 seats. The main contest is said to be between Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Besides these two, Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Bilawal Bhutto and 2008 Mumbai terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s son Hafiz Talha Saeed and son-in-law Khalid Waleed are also in fray for the Pakistan General Election 2018.

According to an Election Commission official, 5,878 polling stations have been declared “highly sensitive” — official euphemism to mean they are prone to violence — in Sindh, 5,487 in Punjab and Islamabad, 3,874 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA and 1,768 in Balochistan. In a special message, Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Sardar Raza Khan urged people to vote without fail. He promised a free and fair election.

Survey Predicts Imran Khan’s Victory

As per a nationwide survey, Imran Khan’s PTI is leading with 29 per cent, followed by PML-N at 25 per cent and PPP at 20 per cent. In Punjab Province, Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N is expected to lose its ground to the PTI. Notably, Punjab is considered as stronghold of the jailed former PM Sharif.

Last Minute Appeal

Political parties and their candidates made intense, last-minute efforts to garner support just before electioneering ended at midnight on Tuesday. In an audio message from Adiala jail, former Pak PM, Nawaz Sharif said,”The time has come for you to make this movement a success and announce such a historic verdict which may sweep away all those verdicts that have made Pakistan a graveyard of justice.” PML-N President and Sharif’s younger brother Shehbaz Sharif asserted on Monday that the PML-N was set to win.

On the other hand, Imran Khan continued to be aggressive, telling huge rallies in PML-N stronghold Lahore on Monday night that the Sharif claims of development were “only in advertisements”. He urged the people to change the fate of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Peoples Party(PPP) chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that he is unfazed by the undemocratic tactics, reported Geo News. Asking voters to support him Bhutto said “I am out on streets to save Pakistan.” He urged the people to support him like they supported his grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

(With agency inputs)