Pakistan election 2018: Imran Khan claims victory – as it happened

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Pakistan election 2018: Imran Khan claims victory – as it happened” was written by Damien Gayle , Kate Lyons, Amanda Holpuch and Haroon Siddique, for theguardian.com on Thursday 26th July 2018 14.41 UTC

Closing summary – Imran Khan promises a new Pakistan

The former Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan has claimed victory in his country’s parliamentary elections, promising a new Pakistan following a vote that was marred by allegations of fraud and militant violence.

Khan, who aspires to be the country’s next prime minister, said in a televised address to the nation that “thanks to God, we won and we were successful”.

“If God wills, we will set an example,” he said.

Pakistan’s election commission has not yet released official final results, but Khan has maintained a commanding lead according to projections by many television stations. It is still unclear, however, if his Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) will win a simple majority or have to form a coalition government.

Election officials said an official count confirming Pakistan’s next government was expected later in the evening. More than a dozen TV channels projected based on undisclosed methodologies that PTI would get as many as 119 seats of the 270 national assembly seats contested.

Before even half the votes were counted, Khan’s leading rival, Shahbaz Sharif, who heads the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the party of the jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, rejected the vote, generating fears that disgruntled losers could delay the formation of the next government.

Since he formed his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or Movement for Justice, party in 1996, Khan has remained, at best, one of Pakistani politics’ favourite eccentrics, an obscure backbencher who was never even considered among the country’s top 50 politicians, writes Mehreen Zahra-Malik.

But on Thursday, as unofficial results trickled in from Pakistan’s thousands of polling stations, it was clear that the cricket hero is now a bat’s swing away from becoming the Islamic republic’s 19th prime minister.

His political turnaround is as staggeringly radical as his personal one.

Khan, now 65, grew up in an upper-middle class household in Lahore and was educated at Aitchison College, considered the Pakistani equivalent of Eton, before being sent to England to study at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, and then to Oxford to read philosophy, politics and economics.

As he rose to become a cricketing star, he also became renowned as a playboy prince who rode around in swanky sports cars, romanced debutantes like Lady Liza Cambell and Susannah Constantine and frequented topless nightclubs like Stringfellow’s on London’s West End.

But in 1995, after marrying the British heiress Jemima Goldsmith, Khan swapped this lifestyle for the bearpit of Pakistani politics, using his political party to fight what he saw as the endemic corruption of Pakistan’s old-style dynasties.

The likelihood that Imran Khan, a former playboy and cricketing hero with zero experience of government, will become Pakistan’s next prime minister marks a radical departure for a politically and religiously conservative country dominated for decades by the wealthy Bhutto and Sharif family dynasties, Simon Tisdall writes.

But the projected success of Khan’s upstart populist Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in winning most seats in the national assembly was overshadowed before the final results were declared by furious claims from rival parties of “massive” vote-rigging by the army. The opposition’s unanimous rejection of the outcome spells trouble ahead.

Khan’s supporters will hail his achievement as the dawn of a new age, symbolising the end of politics-as-usual and the perceived elitism, cronyism and corruption associated with Shehbaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan People’s party (PPP).

Khan promised a fresh start, appealing in particular to younger people among the 106 million voters. But the former national cricket team captain will have his work cut out to convince Pakistan as a whole that he is a worthy, honest and credible winner. Independent Pakistani and EU observers expressed concerns about fairness and media freedom during the campaign. After numerous complaints about delays and irregularities at army-supervised polling stations, their verdict, due on Friday, is awaited with anticipation.

Some encouraging, but cautious first takes on Imran Khan’s victory speech.

He said he would address all rigging allegations by opposition parties and that his government would facilitate investigations into rigging complaints.

He ended with this: “I thank all Pakistanis again… pray for me that Allah gives me the strength to fulfil all the promises I have made to you.”

On foreign policy: “We have a big foreign policy challenge. If there is a country that needs stability, peace, it is Pakistan, he said, adding that better relations with neighbours would mean Pakistan can concentrate on its own development.

On India: He lamented his portrayal by Indian media as a “Bollywood villain” in the run up to the election. “I am that person who believes that if we want to reduce poverty in the subcontinent, we need better trade ties.” He said Pakistan and India needed to sit at the table to solve the Kashmir issue and end “blame games.”

“If the leadership of India is ready, we are also ready to improve the relations. If you take one step toward us, we will take two steps toward you.”

He said he would emulate China’s poverty alleviation and anti-corruption policies and use the China Pakistan Economic Corridor to bring more money into Pakistan.

He said the people of Afghanistan had borne great pains, and it would be the effort of his government to “bring peace to Afghanistan” and create a situation where they two countries could have open borders.

On the U.S. he said he would work for a more equal “more balanced relationship.”

He said he wanted better ties with Iran and would use his power to play a reconciliatory role in the Middle East.

From: Mehreen Zahra-Malik

Imran Khan claims victory in Pakistan elections

Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician, has claimed victory in Pakistan’s fraught election after unofficial results claimed he had taken his record fifth national assembly seat deep in the electoral territory of his main political rivals.

He is now addressing the nation from his home in Banigala, on the outskirts of Islamabad, according to our correspondent, Mehreen Zahra-Malik, who is sending us highlights from his speech:

“This is a historic election,” he said.

“I will tell you what sort of Pakistan I want to see: my inspiration is the state that the Prophet created in Medina,” adding that he wanted to create an Islamic welfare state. “A state in which almost half the population is below the poverty line, or above the poverty line, how can we say this is the great dream that was Pakistan. All our policies will be to uplift poor classes.”

“Today, at this moment, I want all of Pakistan to unite. ” He was forgetting all attacks, including personal ones, that his opponents had launched against him. “My government will not take vengeful action against anyone.”

“I say this in front of you today … we will run Pakistan in a way in which it has never been run before, deliver the kind of governance never delivered before.”

“I promise you that I will protect the tax money of people. We will reduce our expenses. I will ashamed to live in such a huge prime minister’s house. We will decide what to do with the prime minister’s house, we will turn it into some sort of educational institute. We will use all governor houses for the public.”

His claim comes after he took a key constituency in Punjab province:

In one of the most important contests of the July 25 general election, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan defeated Khawaja Saad Rafique, a longtime ally of Nawaz Sharif, Khan’s jailed chief rival who heads the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz party. Khan bagged 84,000 votes while Rafique got 83,000, according to unofficial results.

NA0131 is a key constituency in Punjab province, for decades the power-base of Nawaz Sharif and his family.

Updated

Khan is addressing the nation from his home in Banigala, on the outskirts of Islamabad. He’s speaking impromptu, and seems sober, his tone noticeably milder than usual.

“Today, at this moment, I want all of Pakistan to unite,” adding that he was forgetting all attacks, including personal ones, that his opponents had launched against him. “My government will not take vengeful action against anyone.”

Imran Khan is addressing the nation, Mehreen Zahra-Malik reports

“This is a history election,” he said.

“I will tell you what sort of Pakistan I want to see: my inspiration is the state that the Prophet created in Medina,” adding that he wanted to create an Islamic welfare state.

“A state in which almost half the population is below the poverty line, or above the poverty line, how can we say this is the great dream that was Pakistan. All
our policies will be to uplift poor classes.”

Updated

Dr Fehmida Mirza, a former speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly, has become the first woman in the country to have been elected for a fifth consecutive time from the same general seat, writes Mehreen Zahra-Malik.

Unofficial election results showed she had won her constituency, NA-230, in Badin in the southern SIndh province by a narrow margin against her rival Haji Rasool Bux Chandio from the Pakistan People’s Party. She first won this seat in the 1997 elections.

This time, she ran under the Grand Democratic Alliance banner led by her family. She is formerly of the PPP.

Imram Khan’s support of the Hudood ordinances – laws enacted in 1979 as part of the General Ziaul Haq government’s “Islamisation” process – have already begun to worry observers.

Saima Mir, a writer and former BBC journalist, who is an Ahmadi muslim, tweeted:

The Election Commission’s electronic Results Transmission System has malfunctioned, and the commission is now receiving results through fax, according to Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, writes Mehreen Zahra-Malik.

This has implications to further delay the release of official
results, which were originally scheduled to be released at 2a.m. on Thursday morning.

Last night, after the 2am deadline passed and alarm was raised about delays in releasing official results, the election commission had said the tardiness was due to the RTS app breaking down.

Losing parties to address alleged rigging in joint press conference

All major political parties have rejected the result of General Election 2018.

Talking about rigging in GE 2018 Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bezinjo, President of the National Party told The Guardian’s Shah Meer Baloch:

The election were completely rigged and it was one of the worst elections in the history of Pakistan. We would not accept the result. All major political parties, who rejected the result— PML N, PPP, MMA, NP, will hold a press conference tomorrow in Islamabad in order to decide their future course of actions concerning the countrywide rigged elections.

Frontier Corps, Army and Election Commission of Pakistan have been on the same table for manipulating the election in Pakistan, particularly in Balochistan.

The country has become a laughing stock globally because the final election results are still withheld and Army has decided the candidates not the masses. In Balochistan, Army, ECP and FC did selection. Such as in PB 44, they did not allow our people to caste their votes, and did not count the result of many polling stations. They did it in entire Balochistan. But we will not keep mum and fight for democracy and public mandate.

Updated

Hamza Ghaznavi, the young founder of Propergaanda, a Pakistani infotainment startup, compares the election to an episode of Game of Thrones.

My knowledge of Pakistan’s politics is rather better than my knowledge of Game Of Thrones, so I’ll leave it up to you to interpret what he means.

Secunder Kermani, the BBC’s Pakistan and Afghanistan correspondent, asks what happens next in Pakistan’s contested election.

Religious parties call for vote-rigging summit

Fazlur Rehman, the head of an alliance of religious parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, has announced summoning an “All Parties Conference” over rigging in Wednesday’s landmark poll, Mehreen Zahra-Malik reports.

“The rigged results are unacceptable” to the alliance, Rehman said in a statement.

All major political parties, other than Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, have alleged rigging. There were also widespread allegations of “engineering” by the military in the run up to the vote.

Younger readers may appreciate a primer on Imran Khan, the Pakistani cricket star turned politician. Here is a profile circulated this morning by the Press Association.

Imran Khan is the playboy who could become prime minister.

The former Pakistan cricket captain and ex-husband of Briton Jemima Khan is a leading contender in his country’s election.

After captaining Pakistan’s cricket squad when it won the world cup in 1992, he moved to politics, founding his party Tehreek-e-Insaf, the Movement for Justice, after marrying Jemima in 1995.

Their relationship – the union of a cricket legend and, by then, strict Muslim, and a woman 20 years his junior – was controversial from the start.

Ms Khan, daughter of the late Jewish financier Sir James Goldsmith, converted to Islam when she married Mr Khan, who was dubbed cricket’s greatest playboy in the 1980s and 1990s and was a favourite with women.

The couple divorced in 2004.

A Pakistani newspaper shows Imran Khan, head of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, on the front page a day after general elections
A Pakistani newspaper shows Imran Khan, head of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, on the front page a day after general elections Photograph: Rehan Khan/EPA

Mr Khan, now 65, became increasingly devoted to leading his political party and cleaning up Pakistani politics.

In 2007, he went on hunger strike to protest against emergency rule in Pakistan a week after being jailed as part of a continuing crackdown by president Pervez Musharraf on political opponents.

He was seized by hard-liners at a student demonstration in Lahore and handed over to police who charged him under anti-terrorism laws.

Mr Khan has more than eight million Twitter followers, and in a tweet on Tuesday imploring people to vote, he wrote: “People of Pakistan must come out and vote tomorrow in this historic election.

“This is the first time in 4 decades the nation has a chance to defeat the entrenched status quo. Don’t miss this opportunity.”

A profile on his party’s website says Mr Khan was a “quiet and shy boy in his youth” and attended the Royal Grammar School, Worcester, before completing his formal schooling with an undergraduate degree in economics from Keble College, Oxford.

He was captain of the Oxford University cricket team in 1974, and of his cricketing prowess, the profile says: “He is the finest cricketer Pakistan has ever produced, who is among the finest all-rounders and greatest fast bowlers the game has ever seen.”

After retiring from cricket, Mr Khan founded the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in Lahore, the profile says.

The main focus of his party is to “bring justice to the people of Pakistan, largely via an independent judiciary”.

His profile says: “The party has Islamic overtones and is inspired partly by Imran Khan’s renewed commitment to Islam.

“As a politician, his vision is to turn Pakistan into a just society, based on humane values, by creating an independent and honest judiciary that will uphold democracy, protect human rights and ensure the rule of law and, by promoting a merit-based system that provides equal opportunity for upward social mobility to the working classes.”

Jemima Goldsmith, Imran Khan’s first wife, on his challenges ahead.

Umair Javed, a columnist and political scientist, has some suggestions for how Imran Khan could cool tensions after a highly disputed vote.

One, highlight observations from independent observers – both local and international. Two, urge the Election Commission of Pakistan to swiftly publish its post-poll report. Three, constitute a multi-party commission to investigate what went wrong in the results transmission system.”

In short, he needs to act as a statesman, because his apparent lead is sizeable enough for any adverse findings not to impact the actual outcome,” he told the Guardian.

Updated

What we know so far

  • Results of individual races are beginning to trickle in hours after full results were expected to be announced
  • Pakistan will have to wait until Thursday evening for official results to be announced, election officials have said, a full 24 hours after polls closed on Wednesday evening.
  • With less than half of the vote counted, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party is ahead in projected partial results, leading in 100 seats, to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN)’s 68 seats.
  • Most projections have the PTI winning between 107 and 120 seats, short of the 137 seats needed to form a majority government, meaning the PTI may have to make a deal with some of the nation’s smaller parties.
  • The Pakistani stock market is up nearly 2% this morning, potentially a sign of confidence in the predicted result
  • Though results are not official, Khan supporters have been celebrating overnight, with a PTI spokesman copping criticism for calling Imran Khan “prime minister” and congratulating him on his victory while counting was still underway in more than half the constituencies.
  • There have been widespread allegations of election rigging, with party officials claiming voting irregularities, including that polling agents were not allowed into polling stations and voters were not given forms on time.
  • The election commissioner has denied any allegations of tampering, saying the elections were “100% fair and transparent”.
  • Election day was best with violence: at least 31 people were killed on Wednesday in a suicide attack outside a ballot station in Quetta and others were killed in shooting attacks around the country.
  • About 106 million registered voters were eligible to vote before polls closed at 6pm local time.

What now?

A potential flashpoint is the report of the EU election observer mission, which has been in Pakistan monitoring the election. They are due to give a press conference tomorrow. If the EU mission says the vote was rigged, as six major parties claim, protests could be hard to contain.

Some are pointing to the months-long street protest held by Imran Khan’s months-long “dharna” after the 2013 election, on the basis of much flimsier allegations of ballot-fixing (crucially, not shared by other parties). Yet that protest was granted space by Pakistan’s army, which tacitly approved.

A similar PMLN-led protest could face the same pressure tactics as its largest campaign rally on the streets of Lahore, when hundreds of party workers were arbitrarily arrested.

If the losing parties unite, they might have the strength to face the so-called “establishment”. But according to analyst Fasi Zaka, “if the [third-placed] PPP are ensured a winning tally in Sindh, they are unlikely to follow through with protests.”

Shehbaz Sharif, the PMLN leader, also tends to shy away from conflict with the army – unlike his imprisoned brother, and party founder, Nawaz. As of this morning, there are few signs of spontaneous protest. It’s early days though.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto and leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has visited a hospital in Larkana, which is treating several people who were injured in a blast yesterday that targeted PPP workers.

As official results start to come in at long last, there were cheers after Ahmad Ludhianvi, the leader of ASWJ, a sectarian terrorist group until recently banned in Pakistan, was defeated by a female PTI candidate, Ghulam Bibi, in a constituency race in Jhang.

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Pakistan’s former interior minister, has been defeated after seven consecutive victories.
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Pakistan’s former interior minister, has been defeated after seven consecutive victories. Photograph: B.K. Bangash/AP

Meanwhile, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the former interior minister who split from the PMLN this year, has failed to win election to the National Assembly – breaking a record of seven consecutive victories.

Though the vote has been beset by allegations of rigging, some commentators noted the poor performance of so-called “jeep candidates”, independents who adopted Khan’s jeep symbol and were widely thought to be in league with the military.

Results are beginning to trickle in, with Al-Jazeera reporting that 10 seats have been confirmed for Imran Khan’s PTI party, and two seats have been confirmed each for disgraced prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s party PMLN and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), led by the son of assassinated two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Pakistani MPs are beginning to tweet their news of their victories, hours after a full result was expected to be declared.

The Pakistani stock market is up nearly 2% this morning, which Drazen Jorgic, Pakistan Reuters correspondent, says is a sign of relief from the market that a “weak coalition government” is unlikely.

What we know so far

It is just before 10am in Pakistan, where people who cast their votes yesterday are beginning their day in a climate of uncertainty.

  • Pakistan will have to wait until Thursday evening for official results to be announced, election officials have said, a full 24 hours after polls closed on Wednesday evening.
  • With less than half of the vote counted, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party is ahead in projected partial results, leading in 100 seats, to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN)’s 68 seats.
  • Most projections have the PTI winning between 107 and 120 seats, short of the 137 seats needed to form a majority government, meaning the PTI may have to make a deal with some of the nation’s smaller parties.
  • Though results are not official, Khan supporters have been celebrating overnight, with a PTI spokesman copping criticism for calling Imran Khan “prime minister” and congratulating him on his victory while counting was still underway in more than half the constituencies.
  • There have been widespread allegations of election rigging, with party officials claiming voting irregularities, including that polling agents were not allowed into polling stations and voters were not given forms on time.
  • The election commissioner has denied any allegations of tampering, saying the elections were “100% fair and transparent”.
  • Election day was best with violence: at least 31 people were killed on Wednesday in a suicide attack outside a ballot station in Quetta and others were killed in shooting attacks around the country.
  • About 106 million registered voters were eligible to vote before polls closed at 6pm local time.
  • Women in the highly conservative northern regions of Dir, Kohistan and Waziristan voted for the first time in decades.

Election officials have confirmed that they won’t be announcing an official result until Thursday evening local time, a full 24 hours after polling closed at 6pm on Wednesday.

Vote counting in an election marred by allegations of fraud and militant violence has been tediously slow, yet from the outset cricket star Imran Khan and his Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have maintained a commanding lead.

But before even half the votes were counted, Khan’s leading rival, Shehbaz Sharif, who heads the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the party of jailed ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, rejected the vote, generating fears that disgruntled losers could delay the formation of the next government.

General Pervez Musharraf, pictured in 2007, took control of the country after a military coup in 1999 and remained in power until 2008.
General Pervez Musharraf, pictured in 2007, took control of the country after a military coup in 1999 and remained in power until 2008. Photograph: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters

If the election is won by Imran Khan’s party, it will be only the second time in the country’s history that power has been transferred peacefully and diplomatically.

Since Pakistan achieved independence in 1947, there have been long stretches when the country has been governed by the military, most recently between 1999 and 2008. The army has directly ruled Pakistan for about half of its history.

Imran Khan appears to have the backing of the powerful military establishment and there are concerns that the military will have undue influence over the country if he is in power.

“The military has little desire to see the PMLN return to power,” Michael Kugelman, a south Asia expert at the Wilson Center in Washington DC told the Guardian, “and it is willing to engineer actions behind the scenes that undercut the PMLN’s electoral prospects in a big way.”

Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, in London, who ran against Sadiq Khan to become London mayor, has tweeted about the Pakistani elections.

“Pakistan Zindabad!” he wrote, using the expression of congratulations or encouragement.

Though Goldsmith did not express a support for any individual or party, many people commenting on the tweet interpreted it as a statement of support for his former brother-in-law, cricketer Imran Khan, who is in the lead to win the election, according to initial polling. Khan was married to Goldsmith’s sister Jemima Goldsmith between 1995 and 2004.

However, some on Twitter pointed out that Goldsmith ran a campaign to become London mayor against his British-Pakistani opponent Sadiq Khan that many deemed to be racist.

Updated

The Guardian and the Financial Times both carried the story of the troubled election in Pakistan on their front pages this morning.

“Pakistan votes after violent election campaign,” is the Guardian headline, and the FT goes with: “Khan takes early lead in Pakistan vote”.

Both papers feature pictures of female voters on their front pages. Nine million women registered to vote for the first time ahead of yesterday’s election and women in the highly conservative northern regions of Dir, Kohistan and Waziristan voted for the first time in decades.

Pakistan Today seems to be having a dig at Imran Khan’s alleged establishment connections in its front page today.

Updated

Pakistan is waking up the day after the election to uncertain leadership. As of a few hours ago just one-third of the votes had been counted. Any potential delays in forming a government would be worrisome, as Pakistan faces a mounting economic crisis that is likely to require a bailout by the International Monetary Fund and worsening relations with on-off ally the United States.

Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), or Pakistan Movement for Justice, was listed by the ECP as leading in 113 of 272 contested National Assembly constituencies.

Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was ahead in 66 constituencies, and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), led by the son of assassinated two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto, led in 39 constituencies.

Khan’s camp was increasingly confident, although it still appeared likely to fall short of the 137 seats needed for a majority in the National Assembly, raising the prospect it would need to find coalition partners among smaller parties and independents.

Gallup Pakistan, the Pakistani affiliate of Gallup International, has estimated voter turnout at between 50 to 55% with 106 million registered voters, roughly similar to voter turnout in 2013.

The English language Pakistani paper The Nation has Imran Khan on the front page, showing his purple inked thumb (a sign he had voted in yesterday’s election), with the headline “Man of the match”. The newspaper says PTI had a “clear lead” in the polls and also reported the PMLN’s concerns of vote-riggin.

Spokesperson for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party Fawad Chaudhry (L) speaks to head of the party Imran Khan (R).
Spokesperson for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party Fawad Chaudhry (L) speaks to head of the party Imran Khan (R). Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf spokesman Fawad Chaudhry has drawn flak for a tweet calling his party chief Imran Khan “prime minister” and congratulating the country for Khan’s victory in the election.

Commentators on mainstream media and social networks all criticised the spokesman for calling the election while counting was still underway in more than half the constituencies and as all other political parties were alleging voting and counting irregularities.

“Congratulations to the nation on a new Pakistan! Prime Minister Imran Khan,” he tweeted.

After the media firestorm, Chaudhry addressed the concerns saying: “All TV Channels predicting PTI leading so whats the problem in suggesting that @ImranKhanPTI ll be new PM? In my view its more then clear now Inshallah its my own analysis.”

Updated

Our reporter Mehreen Zahra-Malik says politicians from Imran Khan’s PTI party are not taking journalists’ calls, indicating they may be aware they’re about to assume leadership of the country.

“People who were picking up my calls on the first bell until yesterday are now not picking up call number three,” she said. “It’s usually always harder to get in touch with the guys in power.”

In contrast, she said, PMLN were eager to speak to the media. “PMLN answering because obviously they want to get their narrative out there.”

We have more unofficial, preliminary results. These have not been released by the election commission, but are being reported by local media.

The unofficial results from 42% of polling stations in Pakistan show Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, the party of Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan was leading on 112 seats while the PMLN party, led by Shehbaz Sharif, brother of disgraced former prime minister Nawaz Sharif held 65 seats. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party had 43 seats.

Elections were "100% fair and transparent", says election commissioner

Chief election commissioner Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan has dismissed claims of election rigging.
Chief election commissioner Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan has dismissed claims of election rigging. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

At a press conference, Pakistan’s chief election commissioner Sardar Raza Khan dismissed complaints of election rigging, saying the process had been completely “fair and transparent”, reports Mehreen Zahra-Malik.

“There is no stain on the electoral process,” Khan said. “Why do you think the five political parties [who have alleged rigging] are speaking the truth and the election commission is not? There is no problem with the results. Wait for the results.”

Leaders of all political parties other than Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have alleged rigging, saying voters were not given the required forms on time and that polling agents, party volunteers who monitor the count, had been forced out of polling stations, leaving security officials free to tamper with ballots.

“These elections were 100% fair and transparent,” Khan said as he concluded his press talk.

By 4am, two hours after a result was expected to be announced, only 37% of the votes
had been counted, causing alarm.

The election commissioner said he did not want to mislead anyone by giving an exact time for when all results would be out.

Khan addressing concerns about vote-rigging as he announced that the provincial PP-11 seat in Rawalpindi had been won by Chaudhry Adnan from Imran Khan’s PTI party.

Responding to questions about voting and counting irregularities, Sardar Raza Khan said strict action would be taken against officers found to have violated election laws.

Updated

Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, the leader of the secular Awami National Party, has conceded defeat to Imran Khan’s PTI party in the provincial election in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, reports Mehreen Zahra-Malik.

Yesterday, people were able to cast two votes: one for the federal parliament (called the National Assembly), which impacts who will become prime minister, and one for the government of their province (there are four provinces in Pakistan). This victory for Khan’s party will not affect whether PTI will achieve a majority in the federal vote, but is indicative of support for him in the area.

The PTI has ruled the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province for the last five years and many commentators said it was “incredible” that he had won the province again, despite being the incumbent party.

The PTI’s record in the province is mixed. It is widely credited for reforming police and successfully implementing a “billion tree tsunami” programme that has seen a total of 300 million trees of 42 different species planted across the province. But there are
widespread complaints of irregularities in the building of a 68 billion rupee rapid bus transit system, which a national anti-corruption board is investigating.

The BBC has apologised after it included footage of Wasim Akram, not Imran Khan, in the intro to its flagship current affairs programme Newsnight on Wednesday.

“A bit of an error – that was Wasim Akram bowling not Imran Khan,” they wrote from the show’s Twitter account.

Twitter users have pointed out the error, some with bemusement, others suggesting it was a sign of racism.

Among those commenting on the mistake was Khan’s second wife Reham Khan, a journalist and writer who has been a vocal critic of her former husband, releasing a tell-all book right before the election.

“Omg the ladla will boycott you @BBCNewsnight,” she wrote.

Mehreen Zahra-Malik

Replying to widespread concerns about delayed counting – with just a third of results counted an hour after an official result was expected – senior Election Commission official Babar Yaqoob said the delay was caused by a breakdown in the new Results Transmission System (RTS) and was not a sign of vote count manipulation.

“There is definitely no conspiracy, no one wants to influence the results,” said Yaqoob.

An official at the National Database and Registration Authority, which has developed and is running the RTS for the election commission with multi-donor support, rejected Yaqoob’s explanation and said the system had run without any trouble all day. He said 2am was the official deadline for 100% of votes to be posted but presiding officers were not uploading results as per the agreed schedule.

The official declined to be identified as he was not authorised to officially comment on the election process.

Only a third of the vote had been counted by 3am local time (an hour after the official result was expected).

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), an independent body, blamed on a breakdown in the Results Transmission Software it purchased from a British company and was using for the first time.

A senior election commission official said the app stopped working soon after 6pm when polls closed and thousands of polling officers began using it at the same time.

No official results have been released, we have just partial results being reported by local media and accusations from all major parties, except Imran Khan’s PTI party of widespread rigging, including election monitors being forced out of polling stations.

But none of this has dampened the mood of Khan’s supporters, who are celebrating on the streets as if Khan’s victory is a certainty.

Supporters of Imran Khan celebrate projected unofficial results announced by television channels in Islamabad.
Supporters of Imran Khan celebrate projected unofficial results announced by television channels in Islamabad. Photograph: K.M. Chaudary/AP
Imran Khan supporters watch preliminary results come in on television.
Imran Khan supporters watch preliminary results come in on television. Photograph: Anjum Naveed/AP
A woman dressed in the colours of Khan’s PTI party is driven through the streets on election night.
A woman dressed in the colours of Khan’s PTI party is driven through the streets on election night. Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images
A celebration on the streets of Islamabad after early results suggested former cricket hero Imran Khan was on his way to becoming the country’s next prime minister.
A celebration on the streets of Islamabad after early results suggested former cricket hero Imran Khan was on his way to becoming the country’s next prime minister. Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images
A Khan supporter releases fireworks in the streets in Islamabad.
A Khan supporter releases fireworks in the streets in Islamabad. Photograph: Anjum Naveed/AP
Khan supporters celebrate the predicted result after a bloody election day that saw dozens killed in separate bomb and shooting attacks.
Khan supporters celebrate the predicted result after a bloody election day that saw dozens killed in separate bomb and shooting attacks. Photograph: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

Early projections put Imran Khan’s party ahead

Mehreen Zahra-Malik is reporting for the Guardian from Pakistan. She writes:

Naeem-Ul-Haq, chief of staff to Imran Khan, has said Khan will address the nation at 2pm Thursday, “in celebration and recognition of the massive support received from the people of Pakistan in the 2018 elections which was a contest between the forces of good and evil.”

No official results have been announced by the Pakistan election commission, however early projections from local media TV channels all put Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in the lead, estimating it will win over a 100 of 272 elected seats up for grabs. However, in order to be able to form government by itself, without making a deal with some of the smaller parties, the PTI will need to win 137 seats.

Based on unofficial results of 26% of polling stations broadcast on Pakistani media, PTI is leading on 109 seats, while the PMLN, the party of ousted former prime minister
Nawaz Sharif, is in second place with 67 seats, followed by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party which has 38 seats.

According to unofficial numbers, there was only a 53% voter turnout in Punjab, the stronghold of ousted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League party. Imran Khan, the frontrunner in the election, is banking on gains in the Sharif
heartland to win Wednesday’s landmark vote. Punjab, the key election battleground, has 141 elected parliamentary seats and accounts for more than half the 272 elected seats in the National Assembly.

In the provincial elections, which are running alongside elections for the federal parliament, results from 19% of polling stations in Punjab province showed the PMLN leading with 137 provincial seats and Khan close behind with 115.

This is Kate Lyons taking over the blog from Amanda Holpuch.

I’ll be blogging results as they come in and the fall-out from what some are calling “the dirtiest election in the history of Pakistan”.

Our reporter Mehreen Zahra-Malik reports that three of the major Pakistani parties: the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan People’s Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement, have alleged voting irregularities, including that polling agents were not allowed into polling stations and voters were not given forms on time.

Notably Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has dismissed allegations of vote-rigging.

The run-up to the election was also been plagued by widespread allegations that the powerful military was working behind the scenes to skew the contest in cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s favour.

The former head of the PMLN, the main rival to Khan’s PTI party, Nawaz Sharif, who was jailed on corruption charges this month, has long had tense relations with the military and accuses the military of orchestrating his conviction.

Summary

It is just after 2:30am in Pakistan, where nearly all the country’s political parties have claimed there was vote rigging in Wednesday’s general election.

  • There have been widespread allegations of election rigging, with party officials claiming voting irregularities, including that polling agents were not allowed into polling stations and voters were not given forms on time.
  • The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) – which is led by Shehbaz Sharif, the brother of disgraced former prime minister Nawaz Sharif – has raised “serious reservations” about the vote count.
  • The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party is leading in projected partial results and dismissed allegations of rigging. PTI leader Asad Umar said the parties complaining of irregularities are “sympathetic to India.”
  • At least 31 people were killed in a suicide attack outside a ballot station in Quetta.
  • About 106 million registered voters were eligible to vote before polls closed at 6pm local time.
  • Women in the highly conservative northern regions of Dir, Kohistan and Waziristan voted for the first time in decades.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) has adopted a social media campaign to capture their anger about alleged vote rigging: #MassiveRigging.

The party has just started posting photos on Twitter of what appear to be election results with little explanation, just: #MassiveRigging.

The first photo in the series explained: “Instead of providing Form45, RO’s have provided final result on simple paper which is violation of Election rules which have no legal value.PMLN rejects fabricated elections.”

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party is leading in projected partial results and dismissed allegations of rigging.

PTI leader Asad Umar said the parties complaining of irregularities are “sympathetic to India.”

PTI leader Imran Khan has long peddled conspiracies that the PMLN is backed by India and in one of his last campaign rallies said it was no surprise that Khan was getting negative press in international media given that the “international establishment and India” were backing Nawaz Sharif against Pakistan.

Journalists said in years of covering Pakistani elections, it was unprecedented that only 20 percent election results had come in by 1am, writes Mehreen Zahra-Malik.

“I’ve been covering elections for over twenty five years and this is the first time that it is one in the morning and until now we barely have 20 percent of the results,” Geo News’ Hamid Mir said. “Why are the results so late? The election commission has to answer for this. This is really alarming.”

All major political parties other than Imran Khan’s PTI have alleged rigging, including saying polling agents, party volunteers who monitor the count, were forced out of polling stations before a final tally has been reached, leaving soldiers and other officials to potentially tamper with the vote. About 371,388 soldiers, five times more than during the 2013 elections, were ordered deployed by the election commission to protect and facilitate Wednesday’s polls.

People watch reports on preliminary and unofficial results of general elections, in Peshawar, Pakistan
People watch reports on preliminary and unofficial results of general elections, in Peshawar, Pakistan Photograph: Arshad Arbab/EPA

Updated

Shehbaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), says the party will use all “political and legal options” to address alleged election rigging.

He says the party will hold a meeting tomorrow to discuss all possible options then meet with representatives from other parties. “This matter cannot be allowed to go unattended,” he said.

Babar Sattar, a lawyer and columnist, disputes the notion that this election is “a milestone.”

“I don’t think this election is a milestone in any positive sense,” Sattar told the Guardian’s Mehreen Zahra-Malik. “It’s one step forward and two steps back. Substantively all major freedoms receded in the run up to the election, whether it was freedom of free expression or assembly, and there are now widespread allegations of manipulation.”

He also said it would be difficult for Imran Khan to act as a unifying leader: “Can Imran Khan come out tomorrow and say he will be everyone’s prime minister? After the way he has polarised society and marginalised large segments of the electorate, can he honestly come out and say I’m going to be everyone’s prime minister now?”

More from Shehbaz Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN).

Sharif, at a press conference and on Twitter announced his party “wholly rejects” the election results because of irregularities. “Had the public mandate been delivered in a fair manner, we would have accepted it happily,” Sharif said.

He said results were held up in constituencies and complained that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) rejected the party’s request to extend voting hours.

Sharif said: “I have not seen the kind of malpractices done today after the polling time expired in my whole political career.”

Despite violence on election day and several rigging complaints, one observer told Mehreen Zahra-Malik that the election had historic prospects for Pakistani democracy.

“When an election is believed to be unfree and unfair, knowing that the procedural aspects of the election have been carried out successfully offers little consolation,” Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Woodrow Wilson Center, told the Guardian.

“At the same time, it’s unfair to conclude that democracy is a lost cause in Pakistan simply because it struggles to carry out a clean election. Election troubles shouldn’t take away from Pakistan’s very real democratic success stories, such as devolving more political power to its provinces. No one will mistake Pakistan for a Jeffersonian democracy, but to say that democracy there is dead or dying is far off the mark. This election represents a democratic milestone, albeit one with serious caveats.”

Updated

Incumbent party rejects election results

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) – which is led by Shehbaz Sharif, the brother of disgraced former prime minister Nawaz Sharif – has raised “serious reservations” about the vote count.

“This is not an election, it is complete selection,” said senior PMLN leader, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, at a press conference.

“A great disservice has been done to Pakistan,” Hussain Sayed said. “This is the dirtiest election in the history of Pakistan.”

A spokesperson for the outgoing ruling PMLN party, Marriyum Aurangzeb, has alleged irregularities in the counting process and said the party’s polling agents had been forced out of polling stations in various constituencies, reports Mehreen Zahra-Malik.

“The counting process is being carried out behind closed doors and changes are being made to Form-45,” Aurangzeb told a media conference, referring to voting forms. The provincial election commissioner has dismissed the allegations.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has responded to some complaints of election rigging, according to the news site Dawn.

In response to allegations that political parties were not being provided with Form 45, which contains each ballot centers final tally, the ECP is asking people to approach them directly with complaints. Dawn reports:

ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob said that the only information he had received so far is that polling agents whose parties are not performing well are leaving the stations without taking the forms, and then saying they haven’t received them.

He said that in case any proof is brought forward, action will be taken against all individuals found involved.

MQM-P, PSP, PPPP and the PML-N had earlier alleged that their agents were not being provided the forms, nor were they being allowed to sit inside the station during counting process.

Sherry Rehman, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) senate leader of the opposition, said that the claims of election rigging stood to “render the whole election null and void”.

More on the allegations of electoral rigging, from Memphis Barker in Islamabad.

The complaints of electoral rigging are unparalleled in recent Pakistani history. Leaders of almost every political party except the PTI have claimed that their polling agents – party workers who keep an eye on the count –have been evicted from polling stations before a final tally has been reached, leaving military personnel and other officials to potentially tamper with the vote.

At least six parties, including the far-right religious outfit Tehreek-e-Labbaik, have complained of the blatant violation of electoral procedure.
Musadik Malik, a PML-N senator, informed journalists that the rigging focused on constituencies where there was a tight race between his party and the PTI.

“Our polling agents said it was security forces who told them to leave,” Omar Quraishi, a spokesman for the PPP, told the Guardian.

Cyril Almeida, one of Pakistan’s most prominent journalists, tweeted: “There goes the theory they” – referring to the military – “can’t/won’t be blatant.”

There is a carnival atmosphere in Lahore right now, and particularly in the wealthier neighborhoods, Imran Khan supporters can be seen celebrating, dancing in the streets, waving flags bearing Khan’s image, honking horns and even firing celebratory gunshots, writes Mehreen Zahra-Malik.

Supporters of Pakistan’s cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) party, celebrate during general election in Lahore
Supporters of Pakistan’s cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) party, celebrate during general election in Lahore Photograph: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

Millions of Pakistani voters have cast their ballots in a general election beset by allegations of military interference and scarred by the deaths of at least 31 people in a suicide attack outside a polling station in the eastern city of Quetta, writes Memphis Baker, in his latest story from Islamabad.

At a plastic table at a street-side cafe, Muhammad Junaid, 20, showed the Guardian an ink stain on his thumb and said he had voted for Khan as the other parties had failed to meet expectations.

“We have tried all the others,” he said, a common refrain. His friend Muhammad Salman, also 20, said Khan was certain to win, helped by a generation of young supporters who had been unable to cast a vote in 2013.

Muhammad Ali, a PML-N voter, said the “establishment” was interfering in the vote because Sharif had “refused to salute them” while in office.

Widespread allegations of election rigging

Three major Pakistani parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan People’s Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement, have alleged voting irregularities, including that polling agents were not allowed into polling stations and voters were not given forms on time, writes Mehreen Zahra-Malik.

The run-up to the election has also been plagued by widespread allegations that the powerful military was working behind the scenes to skew the contest in cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s favour. His main rival Nawaz Sharif, who was jailed on corruption charges this month, has long had tense relations with the military and accuses the military of orchestrating his conviction.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) leader Faisal Sabzwari said election officers aren’t providing certified election results and have thrown polling agents out during ballot counts.

Updated

A reminder of what was up for vote today as unofficial results from constituencies across Pakistan pour in:

Parties are competing for 272 elected seats in the national assembly. There are also 60 seats reserved for women, and 10 for minorities, allocated on a proportional representation basis.

The makeup of this parliament will be slightly different from the last one, after a 2017 census led to a shifting of boundaries to create at least 15 new constituencies.

Voters will also be selecting provincial assemblies, which have become more influential since the devolution of considerable powers in 2010.

Polling officers count ballots at a polling station as the general elections concluded, in Islamabad, Pakistan
Polling officers count ballots at a polling station as the general elections concluded, in Islamabad, Pakistan Photograph: Sohail Shahzad/EPA
Supporters of Pakistani cricket star-turned-politician and head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan cheer as they take to the street to celebrate after polls closed
Supporters of Pakistani cricket star-turned-politician and head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan cheer as they take to the street to celebrate after polls closed Photograph: Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images
People show their marked thumbs after they cast their ballot at a polling station, during general elections in Karachi, Pakistan
People show their marked thumbs after they cast their ballot at a polling station, during general elections in Karachi, Pakistan Photograph: Rehan Khan/EPA

Sorry for the delay in updates. There was a technical error with the live blog but it appears to be resolved.

While we were away, polling analysts warned people to be cautious about local broadcasts saying early results show a strong lead for PTI.

Unofficial results on local TV show an early lead for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, led by former cricketer Imran Khan, according to reporters.

PTI tweeted: “Pakistan you have done it!!”

According to unofficial numbers, there was only a 53% voter turnout (compared with 58% in 2013) in Punjab, the stronghold of ousted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League party, writes Mehreen Zahra-Malik.

Imran Khan, the frontrunner in the election, is banking on gains in the Sharif heartland to win Wednesday’s landmark vote. Punjab, the key election battleground, has 141 elected parliamentary seats and accounts for more than half the 272 elected seats in the National Assembly.

Pakistani voters lineup to cast their ballot outside a polling station in Rawalpindi
Pakistani voters lineup to cast their ballot outside a polling station in Rawalpindi Photograph: Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images

Unofficial results from three important constituencies in Punjab, Pakistan’s richest province and the political heartland of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, show his Pakistan Muslim League party in the lead, writes Mehreen Zahra-Malik. Votes have to be counted in a total of 85,307 polling stations.

It will be a very closely-fought election with 12,570 candidates contesting a total of 849 seats in Pakistan’s national and provincial assemblies in the country’s eleventh general election. Polling was postponed in eight constituencies.

  • NA-125: PML-N’s Waheed Alam leads with 2313 votes, PTI’s Yasmin Rashid has 673 votes.
  • NA-128: PML-N’s Rohail Asghar leads with 88 votes, PTI’s Aijaz Ahmed has 41.
  • NA-78: PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal leads in Narowal-2 with 313 votes, Abrarul Haq has 103 votes.

The polling time has come to its end and Pakistan is moving toward its third straight civilian government But Balochistan, southwestern insurgency-ridden province of Pakistan, bleeds again on election day, writes Shah Meer Baloch.

Nine attacks were reported from the province that killed approximately 40 people and injured more than 60 people. The last attack, which was reported one hour ago, was carried out on a polling station in Buleda, a border town with Iran, and killed three security officers, including a teacher who was part of election staff.

A local journalist based in Kech District, said:

The entire election day was spent amidst the deadly sounds of blasts, rockets and hand grenades. There was no peace and I could see helicopters flying over my head and on the news, Baloch insurgents ambushing security forces and throwing hand grenades on various polling stations. There were clashes between the security forces and the insurgents – Balochistan has become a battleground …

The voter turnout in Makran division, which shares a border with Iran and is the epicentre of China Pakistan Economic Corridor, was low. In the main cities of the division people came out to vote, but in rural areas such as border towns people were confined to their homes. Less turnout would be favourable for the candidates that the military establishment is supporting, because wherever the turnout is low and people don’t vote then it’s easy to manipulate the result.

Pakistani security personnel gather at the site of a suicide attack near a polling station in Quetta on election day
Pakistani security personnel gather at the site of a suicide attack near a polling station in Quetta on election day Photograph: Banaras Khan/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

There have been hundreds of complaints to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) concerning today’s voting, says journalist Zahid Gishkori.

Updated

After the polls closed, the head of the media wing of the Pakistan army thanked Pakistanis for coming out to vote and proving their “love & respect” for the army and other law enforcement on duty on election day, Mehreen Zahra-Malik writes.

“U hv rejected all kinds of malicious propaganda,” he tweeted in a veiled reference to widespread allegations of military interference before the election. Around 800,000 members of the security forces, including 371,388 from the army, were deployed to protect and facilitate voting across Pakistan on Wednesday.

The first result(s) will reportedly be announced at 7pm (3pm BST), so, in just over 30 minutes.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has issued a notice to Imran Khan, the front-runner in Wednesday’s general election, for breaching rules on the secrecy of the ballot by casting his vote in public view, while spectators and supporters made videos. He has been asked to appear before the commission at 10 am on 30 July, Mehreen Zahra-Malik writes.

Imran Khan, speaks to members of media after casting his vote at a polling station during the general election in Islamabad
Imran Khan, speaks to members of media after casting his vote at a polling station during the general election in Islamabad Photograph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Three soldiers and one civilian were killed late on Tuesday night when militants ambushed an army team escorting polling staff in Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province, the military’s media wing said in a statement, Mehreen Zahra-Malik writes.

The statement did not specify which militant group was involved but said the ambush took place at Dashtuk, near Pakistan’s border with Iran. Earlier on Wednesday at least 29 people, including six policemen and two children, were killed in a suicide blast outside a polling station in Baluchistan’s capital city of Quetta.

The polls have officially closed, although those who were already in the queue will apparently be allowed to vote.

A Pakistani senator, from the National Party, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Shah Meer Baloch, for the Guardian:

Elections are being rigged in NA 270, 271, and 272 because people are not allowed to caste their vote and security officers, presiding officers have banned people from entering. The security officers are supporting the candidates of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) in Makran.

In a video circulated on social media, a former provincial member from Gwadar Balochistan, Hammal Kalmati, also blamed the military establishment for supporting BAP. Kalmati said he and his people were being barred from polling stations. “This is rigging,” he said.

Updated

The daughter of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, who was slain for advocating reform of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law, has caused outrage by suggesting some women in the country should not be entrusted with the vote.

The tone as well as the content of the offending tweet (see below) have earned Sara Taseer opprobrium.

This is just one response of many:

Despite criticism and calls for her to delete the tweet and apologise, Taseer followed it up with this:

According to the New York Times’s Salman Masood, Imran Khan’s PTI was the only one of the three main parties that did not want the poll extended. It is a moot point anyway as the requests have been rejected. It means the polls will close in about 45 minutes.

Another famous former cricketer has cast his vote. Wasim Akram, who was man of the match when Pakistan, captained by Imran Khan, beat England to be crowned world champions in 1992, has made little secret of the fact that he is supporting his former team-mate.

This is what Akram tweeted yesterday:

Before casting his vote in Islamabad, Zeeshan Khan told Shah Meer Baloch, for the Guardian:

I will vote for the candidate of PMLN, the former PM [Shahid Khaqan] Abbasi because Imran Khan just makes empty promises. The party has, literally, delivered in the country. The Pakistani economy has improved and [Nawaz] Sharif has improved the deteriorating image of the country regionally and globally.

Talking about the role of military establishment, Khan said:

Military should have no influence over politics and foreign policy but unfortunately they have been intervening in the affairs of civilian government. When the leader of Pakistan Sharif did not bend down to them, the establishment just punished them through a judicial coup.

Khan believes that if Pakistan wants to prosper and be a democrat country then the army must stop meddling in political affairs. “But I am not optimistic for free and fair elections,” he said.

Zeeshan Khan, voter in Islamabad
Zeeshan Khan, voter in Islamabad Photograph: Shah Meer Baloch for the Guardian

The PPP has complained of local rigging.

Updated

The PTI appears confident of victory.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has reportedly rebuffed the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) party’s request to extend the polling time for an extra hour until 7pm (3pm BST).

The PMLN had asked for an extension because of the “slow, cumbersome voting procedure” it said had left people waiting in long queues.

Updated

Heavy rain is said to be threatening turnout in Lahore. the country’s second most populous city.

This is a positive story with respect to women voting in north-west Pakistan:

However, things are not so positive elsewhere.

Dawn, citing BBC Urdu, reports that female voters were sent back without being allowed to vote in Dhurnal, Chakwal, in the Punjab. Men at the station were quoted as saying “it is un-Islamic for women to vote”. A 2015 Dawn article, titled “Dhurnal – the village where women can’t vote”, said more than 4,000 women are registered to vote there but none do so.

Dawn also says no women have turned up to vote in Ghoghanwali, in Mandi Bahauddin, in the Punjab, where it says female voters have been prevented from voting in the past.


PMLN asks for voting extension

Polling stations in Pakistan are supposed to close at 6pm (2pm BST) but the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has requested that they stay open for another hour, until 7pm.

It says:

There are long lines of voters waiting in the queue while only 3-4 persons are allowed to enter the polling station at a time to cast their vote ….

This is not only causing inconvenience to voters standing in long lines in the hot and humid weather, but it also may end up depriving people from their right of vote because of this tedious, slow, cumbersome voting procedure adopted by personnel at almost all the polling station [sic] in Pakistan.

It is not just Imran Khan, who the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has in its sights for transgressing its ban on electoral speech-making on election day.

Updated

Voters for a party which has been critical of the Pakistani military have reportedly been targeted in Waziristan, the mountainous region in the north-west of the country.

Seven people have been arrested for alleged vote rigging in Pakistan’s most populous city, Karachi, Dawn reports:

Yasmeen Lehri, a candidate for the provincial assembly from Quetta, Balochistan, expressed anger over the security lapses that she says led to the explosion near a polling station in the provincial capital, which has killed 31 people, according to the Associated Press.

She told Shah Meer Baloch:

It is completely a security failure. The security forces should have devised some pragmatic strategies for stopping this sort of attacks after witnessing the Mastung carnage, that killed 151 people including Siraj Raisani, a provincial candidate, but they have learnt nothing. I don’t think that people will now come out to cast their votes.

Balochistan is at a crossroads and since 2016 Isis [Islamic State] has been very active in Balochistan but the forces have failed to provide enough security to the people on election day and have not succeeded in preventing attacks. We have blood everywhere and in this situation transparent elections, even simple elections look difficult.

Official sources from police department claim that the prime target of the suicide bomber was the Deputy Inspector General of Quetta, Abdul Razzaq Cheema but due to tight security in the police station, near to the polling station, the bomber detonated himself on the gate of the polling station.

A man mourns the death of a relative, who was killed in a suicide blast in Quetta
A man mourns the death of a relative, who was killed in a suicide blast in Quetta
Photograph: Naseer Ahmed/Reuters

Updated

Clashes have been reported between workers from the PMLN and PTI, the main election rivals, in several areas. In Lahore and Chiniot, both cities in the Punjab, the key voting battleground, they led to polling being halted.

Scuffle between PMLN and PTI workers in Peshawar

One of the brightest spots in an otherwise bitter campaign has been the rise of Jibran Nasir, a famous lawyer and human rights activist contesting from Karachi. He has much of the country worrying for his safety after he bravely refused to call Ahamdis non-Muslim, despite the pressure of a mob at one of his rallies.

Ahmadis face serious persecution in Pakistan, for their belief that another prophet may have followed Muhammad. Nasir has been accused of blasphemy by supporters of the new far-right religious party, Tehreek-e-Labbaik.

That has often led to vigilante murders in the past. The last politician to speak up so publicly against abuse of blasphemy laws, senator Salman Taseer, was murdered in 2011.

Nasir says his posters are still being taken down by supporters of the TLP on polling day. He expressed disappointment that none of the major parties had stood up for him in the face of blasphemy allegations. He said:

They can’t even condemn this propaganda. They are allowing it to become a normal part of political battles.

He added that he was disappointed with supporters of the PTI for not more aggressively countering Imran Khan’s “weaponisation” of blasphemy in his campaign, where he has accused the PMLN of secretly loosening the laws at the behest of a shady international establishment. He said:

The PTI is supposed to have support of the liberal, educated youth. How superficial liberals are they if they cannot call out their own leader on this nonsense.

Jibran Nasir, human rights lawyer and independent candidate
Jibran Nasir, human rights lawyer and independent candidate Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of the assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhuttoand and leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has voted.

Updated

Transgender people hold a rally for social reform in Lahore, Pakistan
Transgender people hold a rally for social reform in Lahore, Pakistan Photograph: Rana Sajid Hussain/Pacific Press via ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Among those running for office today are 13 transgender candidates.

Though Pakistan is a conservative and deeply religious country where homosexuality is still illegal, it has nonetheless introduced laws that are at the global forefront of trans rights, writes Memphis Barker.

In March, a wide-ranging piece of legislation granted intersex people, eunuchs and trans men and women the option to self-identify their gender on official forms. In contrast, the UK requires a citizen to be diagnosed with gender dysphoriaand have lived for at least two years in their chosen gender.

But life is still extremely difficult for trans people in the country, where some face violence, or rejection from their families, often ending up as beggars or sex workers; a situation that, should they win seats today, the candidates are looking to change.

Imran Khan, head of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party could become the next prime minister of Pakistan.
Imran Khan, head of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party could become the next prime minister of Pakistan. Photograph: K.M. Chaudary/AP

Though the result of today’s election is by no means a certainty, some pollsters think Imran Khan is set to become the country’s next prime minister.

Fatima Bhutto, the granddaughter of Pakistan’s first democratically elected head of state, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, has written an opinion column for the Guardian dissecting the former cricketer’s “morally flexible manifesto”.

In 2006, he voted against the women’s protection bill, an amendment to the grotesque Hudood Ordinances, which jail a woman for the crime of pre-marital sex or adultery.

As a consequence, allegations of rape are nearly impossible to prove unless the victim can call upon four upstanding men who witnessed the exact moment of rape. Without those witnesses, it was often the victim, not the rapist, who found herself behind bars.

The 2006 amendment only did away with the requirement of witnesses; which would have allowed a woman who said she had been raped to be taken at her word and given the right to file a police case and have a rape test administered in a hospital. Khan voted no.

He has defended Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, has called for the military’s gargantuan share of the national budget to remain untouched, declared that feminism degrades motherhood, attracted an army of online trolls who send death threats to his critics, and most recently welcomed the support of Fazlur Rehman Khalil, who reportedly founded the militant organisation Harkatul Mujahideen, was reportedly an associate of Osama bin Laden and remains on a US terror watchlist.

Isis claims responsibility for Quetta bomb attack

Islamic State claimed responsibility for an explosion near a polling station in Quetta, Pakistan, on Wednesday, according to the group’s Amaq news agency.

At least 28 people were killed and more than 30 injured in the blast in the capital of the province of Balochistan.

The group said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber, but did not provide further detail or evidence for its claim.

For 40 years, women have not been able to cast votes in Uper Dir, a district of the northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with the reason given that exchanges of gunfire on election day made it too dangerous for them, reports Memphis Barker for the Guardian.

But today, women are once again casting their votes as this footage, obtained by Aamir Iqbal for the Guardian, shows.

There are more than nine million new female registered voters in Pakistan ahead of this election. Some are voting at mixed polling stations, others at female-only polling stations.

There was outrage last week when Pakistan’s election commission ordered that only female polling agents would be allowed to work at female polling stations, causing fears that there would not be enough polling agents to manage the stations, rendering women unable to cast their ballots.

Here’s Imran Khan delivering a televised speech to the media after casting his vote in Islamabad, something the Election Commission of Pakistan said the speech was in clear violation of its rules, which has a ban on electoral speech-making from midnight on election day.

If you look carefully, you can see his left thumb is purple, the sign that he has voted.

Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) speaks to members of media in Islamabad.
Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) speaks to members of media in Islamabad. Photograph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Updated

The death toll from the bomb attack in Quetta, which occurred about an hour ago, has reached 28, according to Abdul Razaq Cheema, deputy inspector general of Quetta.

Cheema said the police stopped the suicide bomber from entering the polling station, which seems to have been the target of his attack, at which point the bomber blew himself up, reports Aamir Iqbal for the Guardian.

The attack has made people in the province of Balochistan afraid to leave their homes to vote.

“Now many people have stopped visiting polling stations for casting their votes due to prevailing fears and attacks. The voter turn-out would be very low in Balochistan,” Abid Mir, a Quetta local, told the Guardian’s Shah Meer Baloch.

Updated

The Election Commission of Pakistan has taken notice of Imran Khan, leader of the PTI, after he gave a televised, 20-minute press conference outside a polling station in Islamabad today, breaking the ban on electoral speech-making that came into effect at midnight on Monday.

Khan lambasted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who is also the brother of his main opponent, as an agent of India, claiming that the Indian media and prime minister were behind him.

The Election Commission of Pakistan said the speech was in clear violation of its rules. It also censured Shehbaz Sharif for speaking to reporters after he voted, though his speech was much shorter, received little coverage and was not broadcast live.

Updated

The frontrunners to become prime minister after today’s election have condemned the bomb blast in Quetta. Imran Khan called it a “terrorist attack” by Pakistan’s enemies “seeking to disrupt our democratic process”.

His chief opponent, Shehbaz Sharif, said he was “heartbroken” to hear about the attack and said that police officials were among those killed. He also condemned the incident as a “terrorist attack” and offered his condolences to the families of the victims.

What we know so far

  • Polls opened at 8am local across Pakistan.
  • Over the course of the day, Pakistan’s 106 million registered voters will have the chance to choose new provincial assemblies, a new parliament, and potentially a new prime minister.
  • Violent attacks have already occurred across the country in the first few hours of voting.
  • At least22 people have been killed in an apparent suicide bomb attack in Quetta, the troubled capital of the Balochistan province. Authorities have warned the death toll from this attack could rise further.
  • One person was killed and three injured after PTI supporters exchanged fire with those from the securalist Awami National Party (ANP) in Swabi, a city in the northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
  • Police are also investigating a grenade attack in Larkana, in the southern province of Sindh, the home of the Bhutto family. No fatalities have been reported from this attack so far.
  • The election is seen as a two-horse race between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), which is led by Shehbaz Sharif, the brother of disgraced former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, led by former cricketer Imran Khan.
  • Many expect the vote to result in a hung parliament. If it does, some of the 27 smaller groups may hope to play kingmaker.
  • There have been allegations of military interference throughout the campaign period and there has been deadly violence including a suicide bomb that killed 132 people.

Twenty-two people have been killed in the bomb blast in Quetta, authorities have confirmed.

Officials claim the incident was a suicide bomb attack targeting security personnel at the gate of a polling station in Quetta.

Updated

Death toll rises to 12 in Quetta

Twelve people are dead and 22 injured after a bomb blast in Quetta that seems to have been targeting a police vehicle, security officials have confirmed to the Guardian.

Police in Quetta have said they fear the death toll could be more than 30.

Four dead in bomb attack in Quetta

At least four people have been killed and 10 injured after a bomb attack on a police vehicle in Quetta, the capital of the troubled Balochistan province.

Security officials, who confirmed the attack and casualties to the Guardian, warned the number of fatalities could increase.

Hafiz Saeed, an internationally-designated terrorist with a m bounty on his head, has been filmed casting his vote in Lahore.

In 2012, the US announced the bounty for Saeed’s alleged role in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that resulted in the deaths of 164 people.

Saeed is backing candidates of the Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek party, who campaigned under posters featuring his face, after his party, Milli Muslim League, was banned from contesting.

An election official marks a voter’s thumb as she casts her vote.
An election official marks a voter’s thumb as she casts her vote. Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

After voting, people’s thumbs are inked or painted to show they have voted.

Voters in Pakistan, including Benazir Bhutto’s daughters Bakhtawar and Aseefa, are sharing pictures of their thumbs on social media to encourage people to get to the polling stations.

Updated

Shah Meer Baloch is reporting for the Guardian from Islamabad and has this report from a polling station there:

One of the earliest voters today, Saba Khan, travelled from London to vote for Imran Khan.

She cast her vote in the Islamabad constituency where he is running against Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the former prime minister of the PMLN.

“I have cast my vote for Pakistan,” she said. “I have voted for Imran Khan, all other politicians are tried and tested.”

Referencing the heavy presence of soldiers inside polling booths, Khan added “the military in the polling station shows that election will be transparent. But there is also fear in my heart that the result might be manipulated. You never know if the military establishment stops him from becoming PM,” she said.

Police are also investigating a grenade attack in Larkana, in the southern province of Sindh, the home of the Bhutto family.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of the assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, is the leader of centre-left, secular Pakistan People’s party (PPP).

Three people were injured in the grenade attack but no fatalities have been reported so far.

One dead and three injured in election-related violence

In early signs of poll violence, at least one person has been killed and three injured after PTI supporters exchanged fire with those from the securalist Awami National Party (ANP) in Swabi, a city in the northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said Raza Hmdani, district police officer.

The PTI is expected to retain control of the province.

Updated

Polls open – in pictures

An election official seals ballot boxes before people vote at a polling station in Islamabad.
An election official seals ballot boxes before people vote at a polling station in Islamabad. Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images
A man casts his ballot at a polling station during general election in Karachi.
A man casts his ballot at a polling station during general election in Karachi. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters
Women stand in a queue at a polling station in Islamabad. Polls opened on July 25 in a tense, unpredictable Pakistani election.
Women stand in a queue at a polling station in Islamabad. Polls opened on July 25 in a tense, unpredictable Pakistani election. Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images
A child watches his mother casts her ballot at a polling station in Rawalpindi.
A child watches his mother casts her ballot at a polling station in Rawalpindi. Photograph: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters
A Pakistani soldier checks a voter’s information at a polling station in Islamabad.
A Pakistani soldier checks a voter’s information at a polling station in Islamabad. Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images
People wait to vote in Islamabad. Pakistan has been directly or indirectly ruled by its military for most of its 71-year history.
People wait to vote in Islamabad. Pakistan has been directly or indirectly ruled by its military for most of its 71-year history. Photograph: B.K. Bangash/AP
A woman receives a ballot paper in Islamabad.
A woman receives a ballot paper in Islamabad. Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

Will the elections be free and fair?

There is great fear that there will be violence in the wake of today’s election. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said it was “gravely concerned” about the violence that has been directed against candidates during the campaign, writing “Election gatherings must not become killing fields”.

The death toll from election-related violence reached more than 170 and the military has deployed a huge number of troops to try to ensure security.

However, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) alleges that the military is part of the problem, saying they are backing Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

Mehreen Zahra-Malik, reporting for the Observer in Lahore, writes:

Members of the PMLN have complained of a campaign of harassment and arrests. Many senior leaders say they have been threatened by the military’s intelligence agencies to force them to join Khan’s party. Criminal cases have been opened against nearly 17,000 party supporters, and corruption investigations launched against several senior party members.

The country’s leading English-language newspaper Dawn, which is considered sympathetic to the PMLN, says its distribution is being blocked. Many journalists and online activists say they are under pressure to promote the PTI and mute criticism of the army or coverage of the PMLN.

Parties and rights groups are also concerned by the election commission’s decision to deploy 371,000 troops, three times more than 2013, at polling stations, and grant them broad judicial powers, including to hold on-the-spot trials and sentence anyone breaking election laws.

Shehbaz Sharif, the leader of the PMLN and brother of Pakistan’s ousted prime minister, Nawaz Sharif has accused the country’s caretaker government of “naked” pre-poll rigging against their party.

“Hundreds of our workers have been arrested in Punjab [province] … and locked up for 30 days,” Shahbaz said at a press conference in Lahore, two weeks ago. “It is naked pre-poll rigging.”

Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the head of the PMLN party casts his vote in Lahore.
Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the head of the PMLN party casts his vote in Lahore. Photograph: Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

The first voter to enter a polling station in the city of Lahore was business executive Maryum Arif, who was followed soon after by Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the head of the PMLN party.

Arif told Agence France Presse she planned to vote for the Sharif’s party, as “it has served Pakistan”.

It is unclear what the result of the election will be, with pollsters saying the election was “still up for grabs”.

“Our predictions are very murky right now,” Bilal Gilani, executive director of pollster Gallup Pakistan, told AFP on Tuesday.

More than 19 million new voters, including millions of women and young people, may prove decisive in the close race.

Hundreds of thousands of police and military forces have been stationed at more than 85,000 polling stations across the country, with concerns for security after a string of bloody militant attacks in the final weeks of the campaign that have killed more than 180 people, including three candidates.

Security fears did not appear to deter Arif who told AFP that “the law and order situation is fine here”. Heavy contingents of police and military could be seen ahead of polls opening.

Malala Yousafzai, the youngest ever Nobel peace prize laureate, has encouraged people to get out to vote today.

In March, Yousafzai returned to Pakistan for the first time since 2012 when she was shot by a Taliban gunman for her work campaigning for girls’ education.

The 21-year-old, who now lives in the UK, gave a televised address from the prime minster’s house.

“Always it has been my dream that I should go to Pakistan and there, in peace and without any fear, I can move on streets, I can meet people, I can talk to people,” she said.

Updated

Shehbaz Sharif, who is hoping to become the next prime minister of Pakistan, has voted.

Shehbaz is the brother of disgraced former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who will be watching today’s election results from a jail cell, after being sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for corruption. Shehbaz has taken over the leadership of his brother’s party, the PMLN.

Shehbaz has been tweeting this morning, sharing pictures of himself voting and encouraging people to vote.

“High time that all of you came out to vote for Pakistan’s progress and prosperity,” he wrote in one tweet.

“Today is a happy day for all Pakistanis,” he wrote in a tweet earlier this morning. “You are the only one who can do it. Today your vote will determine the positive direction of Pakistan.”

Today’s timings

Polls opened at 8am local time (about forty minutes ago) and close at 6pm.

Preliminary results should begin to trickle in by around 8pm (roughly 12 hours from now), and we should have a good idea of overall results by around 2am local time.

A guide to the election

How does the vote work?

Each voter will be able to cast ballots for two seats in their constituency: one for the National Assembly (the lower house of parliament), and one for their provincial government. There are four provinces in Pakistan: Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In the National Assembly there are 272 directly elected seats up for grabs, as well as 70 reserved seats – 60 for women, 10 for minorities – which are allocated on a proportional representation basis. To be able to form government on in its, a party will need to win at least 137 of the directly elected seats. The leader of the party that is able to form government becomes prime minister.

Who are the candidates?

There are three main parties competing for power, and many expect the vote to result in a hung parliament. If it does, some of the 27 smaller groups may hope to play kingmaker.

Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of ousted Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif and head of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
Shehbaz Sharif, head of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) hopes to win control of parliament again, despite the fact that its former leader Nawaz Sharif, who became prime minister after the 2013 election, was ousted over a year ago, over corruption allegations that came from the Panama Papers leak and is now serving a 10-year jail sentence. Sharif’s brother Shehbaz now leads the party.

Cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan is the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.
Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

The populist Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, also known as the Justice party, led by the former cricketer Imran Khan, has had some success at provincial level but has never been able to convert it into national power.

However, polls are indicating that the PTI might win the most seats today, though not enough to form a majority government, meaning the party will have to do deals with smaller parties and might be dependent on the military for support.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is the son of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party.

The centre-left, secular Pakistan People’s party (PPP), is led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of the assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

The party lost ground after his mother was killed in 2007 but the family name still carries considerable weight.

What’s the background?

Pakistan is the world’s sixth most populous country, and one of just nine nuclear powers. It struggles with violence, extremism and poverty, more than a third of the population are illiterate and per-capita annual income is below £1,150.

It has endured decades of instability, including periods of military dictatorship. Its democracy and its economy are both fragile, under siege from fraud and destabilised by the outsize influence of the military.

There have been allegations of military interference throughout the campaign period and there has been deadly violence including a suicide bomb that killed 132 people.

For a full background to the day, my colleague Emma Graham-Harrison has written this guide.

Welcome to our live coverage of today’s election in Pakistan.

Over the course of the day, Pakistan’s 106 million registered voters will have the chance to choose new provincial assemblies, a new parliament, and with that, potentially a new prime minister.

If the ruling – and beleaguered – Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) party is defeated, the country could see only the second peaceful democratic transition of power in its history, after the 2013 handover.

We’ll bring you the news from Pakistan as it unfolds today. Make sure you follow me and our reporter on the ground Memphis Barker on Twitter for updates.

Updated

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