MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan-administered Kashmir
The army has been called in following clashes between rival political activists in several parts of Pakistan-administered Kashmir as polling is underway to elect the new state assembly.
At least two people were killed and several injured in an armed clash between the activists of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of Prime Minister Imran Khan, and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of slain premier Benazir Bhutto at a polling station in Kotli district, according to Express News, a local broadcaster.
The deceased are said to be PTI workers.
Clashes between the rival parties were also reported from several polling stations in the capital Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Bagh, and Rawlakot districts, suspending the voting for hours.
Footage aired on local broadcaster Express News showed charged activists exchanging blows, kicks, and sticks against each other.
Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, also known as Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Abdul Rasheed Salehria told reporters that army troops have been sent to the violence-hit areas to restore the law and order.
Opposition parties, mainly the PPP and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) of three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, accused the Election Commission and the administration of not taking action against “rigging” in PTI’s favor. The PTI denies the charge and itself accused the opposition parties of attacking its workers and polling agents.
Over 3.2 million voters are set to elect the 53-member AJK assembly for a five-year term.
More than 700 candidates from 32 political and religious parties are contesting for the 45 general seats. Out of the rest eight reserved seats, five are for women and three seats, one each for religious scholars, technocrats, and overseas Kashmiris. The members for these seats are nominated after the elections.
Out of 45 general seats, 12 seats are reserved for Kashmiri refugees who had migrated from the Indian-administered Kashmir in 1947 and 1965 and are settled in various parts of Pakistan. Therefore, in the 10 districts of AJK, elections are taking place on 33 seats only.
Out of 700 candidates, only 20 women candidates are contesting elections from general seats.
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