Pakistan bomb attack in Quetta kills 18 as country holds general election

ISIS claims responsibility for Pakistani polling station blast

The leading contenders are former cricket star Imran Khan and his center-right Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI, Movement for Justice) party and Shahbaz Sharif, the brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who took control of the Pakistan Muslim League.

"I was going to vote for Nawaz Sharif, but the way that he lied on the floor of the House, that convinced me that I couldn't vote for him", said Ahmed Ali Malik, a retired banker who flew in from Manchester in the United Kingdom to vote at Lahore's Delhi Gate.

The Election Commission of Pakistan also sent PTI chairman Imran Khan a notice and called him for a hearing when he openly stamped his ballot paper at a polling station of Islamabad. Speaking to the media, he urged the public to vote in order to defeat the status quo.

Earlier this month, a suicide bomber killed 149 people at an election rally in the town of Mastung in Baluchistan province. Nawaz Sharif was ousted from power previous year and jailed over a corruption conviction days before the vote, removing Khan's most risky rival.

As many as 800,000 law enforcement and army personnel were deployed across the length and breadth of the nation to ensure a safe election. More than 30 political parties have fielded their candidates for the elections. After the attack, the Islamabad Police enhanced security at the palatial residence of PTI chief Imran Khan in the Bani Gala area of the capital.

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Radical groups such as the Milli Muslim League linked to Hafiz Saeed, the man accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks, also contested the polls, though many are running under the banner of smaller, lesser-known parties.

The Election Commission of Pakistan Secretary said the results will be shared as soon as they are in.

"It is vital that all of Pakistan's institutions support and respect the free will of the Pakistani people, expressed through these upcoming elections", the spokesperson said.

Khan's supporters showered his vehicle with rose petals as he arrived to vote at a polling station near his home suburb in Islamabad.

Sharif's PML-N has sought to turn the vote into a referendum on Pakistan's democracy, and has said it was campaigning to protect the "sanctity of the vote".

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Such a delay could further imperil Pakistan's economy, with a looming currency crisis expected to force the new government to turn to the International Monetary Fund for Pakistan's second bailout since 2013.

PTI's main rival PML-N has has rejected the results of the poll Thursday as counting was still underway, alleging "blatant" rigging.

Yaqoob refuted the claims that polling agents were not given Form-45 by saying that "if any party has substantial evidence that foul play occurred bring it forward to us [ECP],"he said".

Sharif's PML-N has been hoping its delivery of mega infrastructure projects, especially roads and power stations that helped hugely reduce electricity blackouts, would win over.

PML-N's lacklustre campaign was reinvigorated by the return to Pakistan of party founder Nawaz Sharif, 68, who was earlier this month convicted and sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison over the purchase of upscale London apartments using offshore companies in the mid 1990s. Hundreds of candidates from militant-linked groups also ran.

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