South Asia

Telecom services halted as voting begins in Pakistan

The Pakistani government suspended telecom services nationwide Thursday as millions are expected to vote in a pivotal general election, marred by an uptick in militancy and the killing of a soldier at a polling station.

Militant groups, including the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Baloch insurgents, have intensified attacks leading up to the election in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country of 241 million in South Asia.

Violence peaked Wednesday with 28 deaths and over 40 injuries in southern Pakistan, featuring two blasts targeting Balochistan election offices.

Thursday morning saw further unrest as gunmen killed a Frontier Corps soldier at a Tank, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, polling station. The police identified the target as a Frontier Corps security team.

In response to recent terror incidents and resultant casualties, the interior ministry emphasized the need for heightened security to maintain order and counter potential threats, announcing the mobile service suspension just before polls opened at 8 a.m.

Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja acknowledged the mobile suspension as a law enforcement decision following Wednesday’s fatal Balochistan attacks. “We offer recommendations but cannot intervene,” he stated, expressing confidence in a free and fair election process, facilitated by divine support.