South Asia

Pakistan counts votes amid violence, telecom disruptions

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Vote counting began in Pakistan after Thursday’s general election, overshadowed by militant attacks and mobile phone service suspensions. Authorities reported at least nine fatalities nationwide.

The election occurred as Pakistan, a South Asian nation, battles an economic crisis and escalating militant violence in a deeply divided political landscape.

Television channels were expected to project initial results a few hours after polls closed at 5 p.m. (1200 GMT). A more comprehensive outcome is anticipated early Friday as counting proceeds overnight. Many analysts predict no clear victor.

To ensure peaceful voting, thousands of troops were deployed, and borders with Iran and Afghanistan temporarily closed.

Despite heightened security, incidents including bomb blasts and grenade attacks led to nine deaths, among them two children. The Interior Ministry heightened security following two bombings in Balochistan on Wednesday, killing 26, with Islamic State claiming responsibility.

Among Thursday’s casualties were five policemen in Dera Ismail Khan district’s Kulachi area, northwest Pakistan, and two children in Balochistan.

Mohsin Dawar, a North Waziristan candidate, a region known for Islamist insurgency, claimed in a letter to the Election Commission of Pakistan that local “Taliban” forces had taken over some polling stations. No immediate confirmation from election officials or security forces was available.

Despite security concerns and cold weather, voters arrived early. “The country is at stake, why should I come late?” said 86-year-old Islamabad voter Mumtaz.

Should the election fail to yield a clear majority, as expected, addressing challenges like negotiating a new International Monetary Fund bailout after the current program’s March expiration becomes more complex.