Pakistan election today: Can democracy prevail amidst turbulent times?

Pakistan has opened its 90,000 polling stations across the country from 8am to 5pm local time for voting. Security is being provided by a large contingent of over 650,000 military, paramilitary and police forces.

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Courtesy: ANI

Pakistan will elect a new parliament on Thursday, voting amidst economic crises, militant violence and a highly polarised political climate.

As a parliamentary democracy, Pakistanis will cast ballots for the National Assembly and four provincial legislatures. In total, 44 political parties fielding 5,121 candidates are contesting the national polls, while 12,695 are running in the provincial elections.

Polling stations across the country will be open from 8am to 5pm local time, with security provided by over 650,000 personnel from the army, paramilitaries and police.

Analysts predict the election may fail to produce a clear winner, with the main contest likely between jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) led by three-time PM Nawaz Sharif.

The powerful military, which holds significant influence in Pakistan, could play a key role in shaping the outcome. Despite claims of non-interference, the army has ruled the country for much of its democratic history.

Last week, PTI's Khan received three convictions rendering him ineligible for office. He faces over 150 additional cases. Low turnout is expected after Khan's imprisonment and alleged army interference.

Dozens have died in militant attacks in the lead-up to the vote. On Wednesday, two blasts at a candidate's office killed 28 people. Heightened security is in place nationwide.

Rights groups have warned against expecting a fair election, though 92 international observers will monitor the process. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned pre-election violence and urged authorities to ensure free and fair polls.