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Pakistan voting ends; results expected soon amid charges of manipulation

Bomb blasts and the suspension of mobile services mar Pakistan’s election. Results could start coming in within hours.

Lahore, Pakistan – After raucous protests charging pre-poll manipulation, a mobile service suspension and bomb blasts that killed at least nine people, Pakistan’s 12th general election was declared closed.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said ballot counting started soon after the closure of the polls on Thursday evening. The results are expected to start trickling in during the night.

Three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is considered the frontrunner.

Sharif spoke to the media after casting his vote, declaring he never had any problems with the Pakistani military, the primary powerbroker in the country, with whom he has had major differences in the past.

His path to another potential premiership was cleared after his chief political rival, ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan, was barred from participating in the election due to a conviction in a corruption case.

Khan is currently in jail serving multiple sentences for a range of convictions but had urged his voters to ensure that they came out on election day.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) also had its party symbol taken away by the ECP, but it still managed to put up independent candidates in a coordinated campaign.

Earlier in the day, former Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) cast his vote in the province of Sindh, where the PPP is particularly strong. The PPP will hope it can spring a surprise and upset predictions by emerging victorious.

Before the voting started at 8am (03:00 GMT), the government announced the suspension of mobile services