Press Trust of india

Candidates making last ditch efforts to woo voters as campaign ends tonight in Pak

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Islamabad, Jul 23:  A two-month-long electioneering by candidates contesting the July 25 elections in Pakistan were making last ditch efforts through public gatherings, corner meetings and door-to-door canvassing before the campaign comes to an end at midnight tonight, amid low voter enthusiasm and a tense security situation.

Over 12,570 candidates, including a number of hardline clerics, are contesting the elections to the parliament and four provincial assemblies.

Against the National Assembly’s seats, about 3,675 candidates are in the electoral race whereas about 8,895 for the provincial legislatures of all four provinces, according to the data shared by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

According to election rules, the public campaign must end at midnight.

No candidate or party leader will address gatherings or corner meetings or take out processions after the deadline.

According to an ECP official, electronic and print media would also avoid telecasting or publishing political advertisements.

Anyone who contravenes ECP guidelines will be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with a Rs 100,000 fine.

The election campaign has generally been seen as low-key and has failed to enthuse voters as in previous polls.

There was also a sense of uncertainty due to court cases against leading politicians including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader and ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif who was convicted and sent to jail for corruption.

The actions of the anti-corruption watchdog – National Accountability Bureau – have also hampered the campaign of PML-N. Similarly actions by the Federal Investigation Agency against former president and Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari in a money laundering case have also been questioned due to their timing.

A wave of deadly suicide attacks by militants have also affected the campaign. About 180 people, including three candidates, were killed in these attacks in the past two weeks in the run up to the elections.

But the contestants and leaders are making last ditch efforts to woo voters before the end of the deadline tonight. PML-N chief Shahbaz Sharif will address rallies in Dera Ghazi Khan and Rawalpindi in Punjab while his son Hamza will organise a rally in Lahore.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan will address gatherings in Lahore, capital of Punjab and the chief battleground for ascendency to power in Pakistan.

Separately, Pakistan Peoples Party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will speak at gatherings in Jacobabad and Shikarpur, the two areas in Sindh, which is a PPP stronghold.

The religious alliance of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Sirajul Haq will also make a show of power in capital Islamabad.

The MMA includes traditional religious parties such as Jamaat-e-Islami led by Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan led by Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani and Tehreek-e-Jafaria led by Allama Sajid Naqvi.

The extreme right wing groups – linked to militants and jehadi outfits – have fielded a huge number of candidates at the provincial and national level.

Most of these extreme right wing parties have fielded their candidates from the platform of shadow parties.

The Pakistan Rah-e-Haq Party emerged from sectarian outfit Sipa-e-Sahaba party and Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek came to the fore as a shadow party of Hafiz Saeed-led Jamat-ud Dawa, and Khadim Rizvi’s Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan.

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