Clashes mar polling to Gilgit-Baltistan assembly

Islamabad, June 8 (IANS) Balloting was temporarily suspended at a few places on Monday following clashes between workers of political parties during elections to the Pakistan-administered Kashmir’s Gilgit-Baltistan legislative assembly.

Over six lakh registered voters are exercising their franchise to elect 24 members of the assembly, Dawn reported. Balloting comes to a close at 5 p.m.

A contingent of police was deployed at a polling station in Mandi Bahauddin’s National Assembly-108 constituency in order to control the situation but was unable to restore order due to presence of a large number of agitated activists at the scene.

Polling restarted after posse of Pakistan Rangers moved in.

Rangers were also deployed at another polling station where shots were fired during a clash between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf and Pakistan Muslaim League-Nawaz activists. Three people were injured during the exchange and were taken to a hospital.

Tight security arrangements have been made across the region for the elections. Eight units of the army have also been deployed in the region.

Voting is taking place at a total of 1,143 polling stations in seven districts of the Gilgit-Baltistan area.

A total of 278 candidates are in the run for the 24 legislative assembly seats.

India has slammed the elections, terming the process an attempt by Pakistan “to camouflage its forcible and illegal occupation of the region” and to deny its people their political rights.

The Gilgit-Baltistan legislative assembly was created through a presidential order in 2009 and the Pakistan Peoples Party won the first elections, completing a five-year term in office.

On December 13, 2014, an interim government was set up with a 12-member caretaker cabinet to conduct free and fair elections.

The Gilgit-Baltistan area of the Pakistan-administered Kashmir covers 85,793 sq km territory.

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