Asia

Pakistan campaigning ends ahead of election

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Media captionCoups, conflict and cricketers: Pakistan's vital election - in 90 seconds

Campaigning in Pakistan ahead of Saturday's general election has ended, with candidates holding final rallies.

The election will mark the country's first successful transition from one civilian government to another in its 66-year history.

However, the run-up to the election has been marred by violence in which more than 100 people have been killed.

On Thursday, the son of former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani was seized during an election rally.

Ali Haider - a candidate for the Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) - was seized in the central city of Multan, Mr Gilani said.

In the latest violence:

  • Three soldiers were killed and four injured in a clash with militants in the Para Chamkani area in the Central Kurram region, the army says
  • A motorbike bomb is reported to have killed four people and wounded 15 in the north-western town of Miranshah
  • At least five people were reported to have been injured in a bomb blast near a PPP election office in Quetta
  • One person was reported injured near an Awami National Party (ANP) office in Peshawar

The end of campaigning was marked with emotional pleas by some candidates.

'National honour'

Nawaz Sharif, who leads the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and is tipped to be Pakistan's next prime minister, made an impassioned plea to crowds in Lahore just minutes before midnight on Thursday.

"If you give us five years you will see that we can change the fate of this country," he said.

He accused his opponents of selling the nation's honour and vowed that his party would be different.

Former international cricketer Imran Khan, leader of the Movement for Justice party, addressed supporters in the capital Islamabad by video link from a hospital bed.

He was injured after falling from a makeshift lift at an election rally earlier this week.

"God will not take me from this world until a new Pakistan is built," he said.

On the outskirts of Islamabad, supporters of the the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) also held a large rally.

Party chairman Bilawal Zardari Bhutto, son of assassinated Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and current President Asif Ali Zardari, also addressed the rally by video link.

"Benazir gave her life for this nation, for this country, for the people, for democracy, and for the completion of this struggle," he said.

"And my father, the President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari, who spent ten years in jail, and always said we should put Pakistan first. Now this is our duty to complete this promise."

The PPP along with the Karachi-based Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party have been singled out for attack by the Taliban.

Correspondents say the threat of violence has forced all three to severely curtail their election events.

Tens of thousands of troops will be deployed at polling stations on Saturday after the Taliban threatened to carry out suicide attacks.

Another six people were reported killed in election-related violence on Thursday.

Two attacks targeted a PML-N candidate and the right-wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, officials said.

Opinion polls indicate there could be a record turnout, higher than the 44% in the last elections in 2008.

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