Polling begins in Pakistan

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Islamabad, Feb 18 : Polling for the 2008 general elections in Pakistan began today amidst tight security.

The voting will continue till 5 p.m. without any break.

Over 7,200 candidates are contesting the elections and 81.2 million eligible voters are expected to exercise their franchise.

The polling is being held for 269 general seats of the National Assembly and 570 seats of the provincial assemblies. 2,234 candidates are contesting for the 269 general seats, while 5,017 candidates are contesting for 570 seats.

All major parties are participating in the elections. They are Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), Awami National Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Muslim League-N. Besides, a large number of independent candidates are also in the field.

The Election Commission has set up over 64,000 polling stations all across the country - 382 polling stations in Islamabad, over 37,600 in Punjab, over 13,400 in Sindh, over 8,100 in NWFP, over 3,400 in Balochistan, while 1,122 polling stations have been set up in FATA.

More than 24,000 polling stations have been declared sensitive and Army personnel have also been deployed at certain places to ensure the electoral process is completed without any trouble or hindrance.

The counting of ballots is likely to be completed in two-three hours after the voting gets over.

It is being speculated that election results will be compiled and announced much earlier than was the case in the 2002 general elections.

It may be recalled that the election date was extended from January 8 to February 18 because of the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto on December 27.

Elections for three National Assembly seats and seven provincial seats have been postponed for various reasons.

Extensive security arrangements have been made for free and fair polling. Strong contingents of police and rangers have been posted at the polling stations for meeting any eventualities.

Nearly 500,000 security personnel have been deployed across Pakistan amid fears of violence and rigging during the polling.

About 34,000 army men and 47,000 officials of paramilitary forces have been deployed to the most sensitive polling stations in 52 districts.

The Pakistan Army has deployed 80,000 personnel to provide security at sensitive polling stations around the country.

ANI

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