Pakistan vows to hold polls as planned despite violence


Pakistan's national election will go ahead as scheduled next Thursday despite security challenges, the election commission said following a meeting to discuss increasing pre-poll violence in the west of the country.

The meeting included top security officials to discuss the clashes in the provinces of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan after the killing of a candidate in a tribal district along the Afghan border a day earlier.

A statement from the commission quoted Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja as saying it was ready to conduct the polls with the help of security agencies and the army.

Fears had risen about a possible delay with rising incidents of violence. That speculation rose when the commission summoned an emergency meeting Thursday.

The Senate had also passed a non-binding resolution calling for the elections to be delayed.

Caretaker Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz, responsible for overseeing security in the country, vowed that elections would go ahead as planned.

"There should be no doubts that the election will be on Feb. 8," Ejaz said.

A national assembly candidate was shot dead on Wednesday in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. On the same day, another political leader was shot dead in his party's election office in Balochistan.

On Tuesday, a bomb attack following an election rally killed four people in Balochistan, for which IS claimed responsibility.

Separatist Baloch militants, including three suicide bombers, also launched a massive coordinated attack on a town in Balochistan on Monday which took hours for security forces to clear. At least 15 people were killed.

The US State Department has already expressed concern about the violence, which it said could undermine the electoral process.

An anti-graft court jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan for 14 years each on charges of illegally selling state gifts, his party said on Wednesday, a day after Khan was jailed for 10 years in another case.

The sentence, after the third conviction handed down to the embattled ex-cricket star in the last few months, also included a 10-year disqualification from holding public office.

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