was on the edge Friday, a day before it goes to the polls to
decide the fate of 23,000 candidates who stayed on despite a
volatile run-up that saw at least 100 people being killed in a
series of terror attacks and former prime minister Yousuf Raza
Gilani's son being abducted.
To add to the anxiety levels, star leader and Pakistan
Tehreek-e-Insaaf chief Imran Khan suffered serious injuries after
a fall in an election rally in Lahore Tuesday.
As Pakistanis prepare to vote in a new civilian government - this
is the first time ever that an elected government has completed
its term - former military strongman Pervez Musharraf found
himself under arrest. He had returned from exile in Dubai hoping
to be a factor but that was not to be.
Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim said Friday all
arrangements were in place for free, fair and transparent
"The power of vote can change destiny of the nation," he said.
The 20-day election campaign had ended at midnight Thursday with
mainstream parties holding big public meetings in the capital
Islamabad and the eastern city of Lahore.
Election for 342 seats of the National Assembly and 728 seats in
the four provincial assemblies will be held simultaneously.
Polling will begin at 8 a.m., and will continue until 5 p.m.
without any break.
The Election Commission's data shows that a total of 23,079
candidates are in the fray for the National Assembly and
provincial assembly seats. The country of 180 million will 84
million voters, including 36 million women, exercising their
The election campaign has been marred by a string of attacks by
the Pakistani Taliban, whose chief Hakimullah Mehsood has warned
of more strikes on election day. Officials estimate that over 100
people have died and many more injured in these terror strikes. At
least three candidates were killed in attacks where elections have
The main contenders for power in this high stakes battle being
watched all over the world are the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party
(PPP), the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Muttahida
Quami Movement (MQM), the Awami National Party and the Pakistan
Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). There are others too like the
Jamaat-e-Islami, Awami Muslim League and the Pakistan Muslim
Barely two days before the polls, Gilani's son Ali Haider Gilani
was Thursday abducted in Multan town by armed men who attacked a
street corner meeting of the PPP. Two people were killed and four
injured in the brazen attack that rattled campaigners and voters.
"I urge all of my party supporters to remain peaceful and
participate in the vote," Gilani said.
Pakistan's elected government completed its first full five-year
term March 17, an unprecedented development in a country that has
seen long spells of military rule, with the last of the military
dictators being Musharraf who returned to the country March 23
after a self-imposed exile.
Though he was keen to contest the elections, Musharraf's
nomination papers were rejected from four constituencies. He was
subsequently arrested on graft charges and is under guard at his
luxurious country villa just outside Islamabad, which has been
declared a sub-jail.
The elections are being held under a caretaker government with Mir
Hazar Khan Khoso, a former judge of the country's top court, being
made the caretaker prime minister.
Pakistan's parliament, according to the 1973 constitution, is
bicameral. It consists of the president and two houses - the
National Assembly and the Senate. The National Assembly has 342
seats, including 60 reserved for women and 10 for non-Muslims.