Pakistan poll violence claims 20 lives

Islamabad, Feb 18 (IANS) At least 20 people were killed and more than 90 injured in different areas across Pakistan in poll-related violence since Sunday, officials said Monday.

Five people were killed in a clash between two rival political parties in Sindh.

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“Five people were killed and 11 injured in exchange of fire between supporters of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q),” police officer Rahim Shah told IANS from Khairpur where the incident took place.

He said the armed clash broke out after PPP supporters shouted slogans against the rival party celebrating their candidate’s victory at the Rahim Jogoth polling station.

Both sides exchanged gunfire, leading to the death of five people and injuries to 11. It was not clear how many of the victims belonged to which party.

Earlier, interior ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema told IANS: “Most clashes were isolated incidents with no major violence reported from anywhere.”

He said eight people died Sunday. On Monday, four people died in shootings in Punjab, two in Sindh and one in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), said the official, adding that 80 people were reported injured mostly in skirmishes at the polling stations among rival groups.

“Monday’s polling was generally peaceful and orderly except for sporadic incidents,” Cheema said.

In Lahore, the victims of Sunday’s shooting included a provincial assembly candidate from former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N).

The candidate, Asif Ashraf, died as motorcyclists opened fire on his vehicle when he was visiting his constituency.

Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, president of the President Pervez Musharraf-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, told IANS: “I congratulate the nation on peaceful polls… I am contesting elections since 1985 and this is for the first time that such peaceful elections have been held.”

He said there were no reports of violence but some incidents happened which he said might not be election-related. “In Pakistan such incidents happen routinely and we cannot say that it was election related,” Hussain said.

Six people were injured during a clash between supporters PPP and PML-Q during voting, police said.

Supporters of rival candidates fought with bamboo sticks in Ghotki district of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s home province of Sindh.

In Bajaur tribal district bordering Afghanistan, a bomb blast ripped through a wall of a polling station while around 300 people queued to cast their votes, officials and witnesses said.