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Pakistanis went to vote today in 41 constituencies for 519 candidates in 33 districts across the country. While scattered reports of problems at polling stations, voters being turned back and Code of Conduct violations have been filtering in all day, polling has been largely peaceful, with no major incidents of violence being reported so far. However, there were reports of a bomb found near a polling station in Killa Abdullah, Balochistan. However, the explosive was successfully defused.

In Punjab, the PML-N is expected to sweep the by-polls easily. KPK is witnessing some tough contests, such as NA-1 in Peshawar and the two provincial assembly seats in Mardan, PK-23 and PK-27. Swabi, Hangu and Lakki Marwat are sensitive districts and polling is being conducted under strict security arrangements.

In several areas, however, women are being barred from voting. In Mandi Bahauddin, not a single woman has yet voted across the constituency. Reports of local agreements barring women from voting are coming in from areas such as Hangu, Nowshera and Mianwali. In Mardan, there are reports of an agreement between all candidates, barring women from voting.

In Thatta, voters are complaining that polling staff are barring them from voting, despite them possessing the correct Block Code and Serial Number, obtained via SMS from the Election Commission of Pakistan’s ‘Digital Parchi’.

Turnout in Hangu is very low, following the Tehreek-e-Taliban’s threats from yesterday, where they declared “Democracy is a sin”.

Even in major cities such as Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad, turnout has been dismal, with people not coming out to vote.