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Violence hit Lahore hours before polls

Hours before the polls, the southern Balochistan province was rocked by a series of 20 blasts while a PML-N candidate and three other persons were gunned down in Lahore.
By Rezaul H Laskar | Agencies, Islamabad
UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2008 10:19 AM IST

Pakistan went to polls on Monday to elect a new parliament amidst unprecedented security even as fears of violence and rigging loomed large over the election process that will clinch the fate of President Pervez Musharraf.

Hours before the polls, the southern Balochistan province was rocked by a series of 20 blasts while a PML-N candidate and three other persons were gunned down in two incidents of violence in the central city of Lahore.

Suspected militants also blew up a polling station in the restive Swat valley in northwestern Pakistan.

Over 81 million voters are eligible to take part in the polling that began at 8 am (8.30 AM IST). The violent campaign that was marked by the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto and a series of suicide bombings is widely expected to result in a low turnout.

The balloting will end at 5 pm (5.30 PM IST) and the first results are expected by late tonight.

Polling has been put off in northwestern Parachinar region in Kurram tribal agency where 47 people were killed in a suicide attack on the last day of polling on Saturday.

Security was also beefed up along the border with Afghanistan, with a large contingent of Khyber Rifles and Frontier Constabulary deployed in Khyber Agency, where Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan had gone missing last week.

Alleging that the government will resort to "massive rigging" to benefit the ruling PML-Q, opposition parties like the Pakistan People's Party and PML-N have warned that they will launch street protests if they are denied victory in the polls.

(With PTI inputs)

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