Deadly attacks mar Pakistani landmark elections

ISLAMABAD -- A string of militant attacks and gunfights that killed at least 17 people cast a long shadow over Pakistan's general election on Saturday, Reuters has reported.

(Beta/AP)
(Beta/AP)

The poll will bring the first transition between civilian governments in a country ruled by the military for more than half of its turbulent history.

Polls opened at 8:00 and will close at 17:00, allowing an electorate of more than 86 million to vote for the 342-member national assembly and four provincial assemblies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan, AFP has reported.

Turnout in Pakistan’s landmark elections on Saturday was around 30 percent by midday and is expected to rise to 60 percent before the polls close, the election commission estimated.

“The turnout is really encouraging,” Election Commission Spokesman Khurshid Alam told AFP.

Overall turnout was 44 percent during the 2008 polls.

In the meantime, the death toll of attacks that started this morning after the polls opened has risen to 17.

A bomb attack on the office of the Awami National Party (ANP) in the commercial capital, Karachi, killed 11 people and wounded about 40. At least two were wounded in three blasts that followed, and media reported gunfire in the city.

Four died in a gun battle in Baluchistan. Gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire near a polling station in the restive province as well, killing two people, police said.

Several were injured in an explosion that destroyed an ANP office in the insurgency-infected northwest, and there were further casualties in a blast in the city of Peshawar, Reuters has reported.

The Taliban threatened ahead of the elections that they would carry out attacks across the country on the election day.