More than 30 political parties and 12,570 candidates are in the running to sway close to 106-million registered voters who will elect both the national and four provincial assemblies. Pakistan citizens went to the polls a few hours before the blast amid heavy security following the assassination of a candidate. The polls close at 6pm local time, which is 11pm tonight AEST. (Courtesy Nine News) This week’s election will be only the second time since Pakistan became independent 70-years ago that power has been transferred peacefully from one government to another. It all goes to plan.The opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Kahn is looking to unseat the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which was formally led by the now imprisoned ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The run up to today has been shadowed by increasing tensions over allegations the country’s military has secretly backed Mr Khan.Earlier election violence saw a suicide bomber in Balochistan kill 150 people – including one of Mr Khan’s party candidates Ikramullah Gandapur.The main problem for the ruling PML’N’s campaign is that since the ousting of its leader Mr Sharif who was jailed over corruption allegations, his less charismatic brother has been running the party’s campaign. Candidates from the party claim they’ve been targeted by the military. A suicide bomber struck outside a crowded polling station in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Quetta, killing 31 people as Pakistanis cast ballots in a general election meant to lead to the nation’s third consecutive civilian government.The Deputy Inspector General Abdul Razzal Cheema said the injured have been shifted to the Sandeman Provincial Hospital. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said it was “gravely concerned” about violence being directed against candidates during the campaign, warning “election gatherings must not become killing fields.” The Pakistan People’s Party is also expected to pick up seats as is the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of right wing religious parties.Sixty seats are reserved for women and ten for minorities which are decided on a basis of five-percent proportional representation.About 800,000 security personnel and 370,000 army soldiers are watching over election day to ensure a free, fair and transparent vote for the people of Pakistan. read more

During the meeting – co-chaired by Salahuddin Rabbani, Afghanistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and UNAMA chief Nicholas Haysom – participants agreed that procedures would be in line with the principles of Afghan national sovereignty, national leadership and national ownership. The three parties committed to a productive exercise and a positive outcome.“We must ensure that UNAMA’s mandate remains in line with the goals of the Transformation Decade,” said Mr. Rabbani in a UNAMA press release. “In doing so, we would also like to emphasize the concept of the ‘One UN’ approach to the activities and engagement of the UN in Afghanistan, to achieve greater integration and coordination.”Mr. Haysom affirmed that the UN welcomes the examination undertaken on behalf of the Secretary-General, adding: “The United Nations has been in Afghanistan for more than 50 years and is committed to improving the lives of Afghans.” “We have made significant strides in focussing our contribution in areas where we bring the most value,” said Mr. Haysom, who is also the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan. “This process will help us ensure that our involvement is even more focussed and effective, and aligned with Afghan priorities. Above all, our engagement in Afghanistan must serve to maximise the international community’s focus on and support for Afghanistan.”A detailed report on the result of the process will be presented to the Security Council, which mandated the review of UN operations, through the Secretary-General, ahead of its September debate on Afghanistan. The Council renewed UNAMA’s mandate on 16 March. read more