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Mobile Phone Services Suspended Nationwide in Pakistan as Voting Commences

AsiaMobile Phone Services Suspended Nationwide in Pakistan as Voting Commences

Pakistan Suspends Mobile Phone Services as Voting Begins Amid Security Concerns

Pakistan temporarily halted mobile phone services on Thursday as the country commenced its national election, announced the interior ministry.

The decision, prompted by a surge in militant attacks in the lead-up to the election, follows a call by incarcerated former Prime Minister Imran Khan for his supporters to remain outside polling stations until the announcement of results.

“In light of recent terrorist incidents and the loss of precious lives in the country, security measures are imperative to uphold law and order and address potential threats, hence the temporary suspension of mobile services nationwide,” stated the interior ministry via X message.

On Wednesday, two explosions near election offices in the southwestern Balochistan province claimed 26 lives. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks on its Telegram channel. Other groups, including the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and Baloch separatists, have also staged assaults in recent months.

Security remains heightened with tens of thousands of troops and paramilitary forces deployed across the nation, particularly at polling stations. Additionally, Pakistan has shut its borders with Iran and Afghanistan for the day for security reasons.

Unofficial results are expected shortly after voting concludes at 5 p.m. (1200 GMT), with a clearer outcome anticipated by early Friday.

The primary contest is anticipated between candidates supported by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, winners of the previous national election, and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) led by three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, seen as the frontrunner. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, has also mounted an aggressive campaign for the top post.

Analysts predict a tight race with the possibility of no clear winner, raising the prospect of smaller parties playing a pivotal role in government formation. Khan’s allegations of military interference in favor of Sharif, and vice versa, underscore the contentious nature of the election.

The outcome holds significant implications for Pakistan’s economic challenges, particularly regarding seeking a new bailout program from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after the current one expires in March. The formation of a stable government capable of addressing these challenges hinges on securing a majority in the 336-member National Assembly, where 169 seats are required for a majority.

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