ISLAMABAD — Pakistanis braved cold winter weather and the threat of violence to vote for a new parliament Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, a day after twin bombings claimed at least 30 lives in the worst election-related violence ahead of the contested balloting.
Tens of thousands of security forces were deployed at polling stations and authorities suspended mobile phone services across the country to prevent disruptions and flash protests. Pakistan's Interior Ministry said the decision was made to maintain law and order. It did not say when the suspension would be lifted.
Unidentified assailants threw hand grenades at two polling stations in restive southwestern Baluchistan province, where twin bombings hit separate election offices on Wednesday, killing at least 30 people and wounding more than two dozen others. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for both bombings.
The grenades on Thursday caused panic among voters but no one was hurt, police said. In northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan, gunmen opened fire on troops in the town of Kot Azam, killing a soldier, police official Fiyyaz Khan said. No one immediately claimed responsibility for that attack.
Voters headed to the polls in heavy snowfall in the ski resort of Murree, near Islamabad, and lined up to vote in snow-covered plains in eastern Punjab province and the mountains of southern Sindh province.
The election has also been marred by allegations from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party of imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan that its candidates were denied a fair chance at campaigning.
The cricket star-turned-Islamist politician — ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament in 2022 — is behind bars and banned from running in the election. He has a huge following but it's unclear if his angry and disillusioned supporters will turn up at the polls in significant numbers.