MUZAFFARABAD: The counting of votes was underway for election to 45 seats of the Legislative Assembly in Pakistani controlled Kashmir (PcK), after the voting process was marred by violence and clashes in some areas.
Voters present inside polling stations were allowed to cast their ballots until after the polling time ended at 5pm.
At least two workers of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party were killed in a clash with Peoples Party activists at a polling station in the Kotli district.
The two PTI activists were shot dead by unidentified persons at a polling station in the jurisdiction of Naarr police station in Charhoi, Kotli, according to police.
Police identified the victims as 40-year-old Zaheer Ahmed and 50-year-old Ramzan. He added that the clash erupted between PPP and PTI workers at about 9:15am at the Mithi Jand polling station. In the ensuing gunfire, Ahmed was killed on the spot and Ramzan died on the way to the hospital.
In a separate incident, five police constables were injured after Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) activists attacked them with batons at the Dhal Chakhya polling station in AJK’s LA-32 constituency, Jhelum valley police said.
Voting in some polling stations of other constituencies was also temporarily suspended due to incidents of violence. Several people were reportedly injured in clashes and a number of political activists were also detained by the police, according to reports.
The elections come after weeks of a highly charged and divisive election campaign that saw politicians from the three mainstream parties — the PTI, PPP and PML-N hurl allegations at each other.
Officials said they expect up to 60 per cent voter turnout because all political parties were heavily involved in the buildup to the election.
In all, there are 3.22 million voters registered in the 45 constituencies. Among them, 2,817,090 voters are registered in 33 constituencies of the assembly. Of the remaining voters, 373,652 are registered in the six constituencies representing the refugees from Jammu on Indian side and 29,804 are registered in the six constituencies representing the refugees from Kashmir Valley. These 12 constituencies representing refugees from Jammu and Kashmir Valley have a total of 403,456 registered voters.
Previously, general elections in PCK had predominantly been a contest between the local leaders of the contesting parties, with a low-profile support from their parent parties or like-minded governments in Pakistan.
However, of late these elections have become a do-or-die battle directly between the central leadership of the mainstream parties, relegating their local leadership as well as a few state-based parties to the background.
This year the pre-poll campaign has surpassed the previous records of aggressiveness towards their rivals.
From June 25 when PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari took the lead over the opponents in launching the campaign of his party from Dadyal, followed by PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz and federal ministers Ali Amin Gandapur, Murad Saeed and PM Khan, to July 23 when the campaign ended at midnight, the electorate in AJK heard nothing but allegations, counter-allegations and usual mudslinging in rallies.
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