Islamabad, July 24: Elections for th 272 general category seats of the Pakistan national assembly and 839 seats of the four provincial assemblies - each in Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Balochistan - will be held today.
A total of 105.9 million voters will cast their mandate in the nationwide polls scheduled between 8am to 6pm. In view of the threat posed by terrorists and unruly elements, the Pakistan Army, in coordination with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), has deployed 8,00,000 security personnel.
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa - the province facing the closes threat from tribal insurgents and Islamist groups - the Army has deployed over 600 surveillance vehicles with live video streaming cameras.
"In respective areas of the country, the Army has been charged with the responsibility to provide mandated assistance to the Election Commission of Pakistan to conduct free, fair and transparent elections," said a press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations.
11,855 candidates are in the fray for 849 seats
For the 849 seats to be contested - including those of the national and provincial assemblies - a total of 11,855 candidates are in the fray. The numbers, through impressive, are lower as compared to 15,629 candidates in fray during the previous elections.
Of the 11,855 candidates this year, 3,459 are vying for the 272 national assembly seats, whereas, the 8,396 candidates are running for the 577 provincial assembly seats.
Imran Khan pitched favourite, but pollsters refrain to endorse
Former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who is credited for winning Pakistan its only cricket world cup title back in 1992, is predicted to be elected as the "new captain" of the nation.
Gallup Pakistan and Pulse have released a series of surveys in the run-up to the polls, predicting a tough fight in the upcoming elections. The opinion polls predicted a hung assembly with the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League -Nawaz holding on to its stronghold of Punjab. Notably, the province accounts for the maximum - 141 general seats in the national assembly.
The latest survey released by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), in coordination with the Herald Magazine on July 12, gives Imran Khan the edge, claiming that 29 per cent of the electorate will vote for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), followed by 25 per cent for the PML-N. The third largest electoral player is projected as the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of late PM Benazir Bhutto.