Deadly Explosion as Voting Begins in Pakistan General Election
At least 31 people were killed and 40 wounded in an explosion outside a polling station in southwest Pakistan Wednesday, just hours after millions of voters began casting their ballots in parliamentary elections.
A senior police official told VOA that a suicide bomber on a motorcycle attacked a crowd outside a polling station in Quetta. The victims included voters, police personnel and political party activists.
The radical Islamic State has claimed responsibility for Wednesday's blast. Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province, where a powerful suicide bombing at an election rally earlier this month killed 151 people, including a provincial assembly candidate. The radical group Islamic State also took credit for plotting the carnage.
The election has narrowed to a contest between ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s former ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz ((PML-N)) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ((PTI)), led by former cricket star Imran Khan, who has pledged to eliminate corruption and create a "Islamic welfare state."
The PML-N has accused the military of helping Khan and the PTI to win the election, a charge Khan and the military have strongly denied. The military has ruled the Muslim-majority nation of more than 200 million people for nearly half of the country's 70-year-history.
Neither the PML-N nor the PTI are expected to win a majority in the 342-seat National Assembly, lower house of parliament, meaning whoever wins will have to enter into negotiations with smaller parties to form a coalition government.
Voters elect 272 members to the parliament while the other 70 are reserved for women and minorities and are given to various political parties based on their percentage of winning seats.
Wednesday's election is just Pakistan's third peaceful transition of power.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has blasted Arab and Muslim states
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has blasted Arab and Muslim states for their rhetoric on the Palestinian situation and for not taking more concrete action to alleviate humanitarian suffering and supporting the peace process.
Haley told the U.N. Security Council Tuesday that “talk is cheap, calling out many countries, including U.S. allies Kuwait, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, for their lack of or small contributions to the U.N. agency that assists Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA.
"So the next time we have a meeting like this in the Security Council or the General Assembly and we hear speech after speech about the plight of the Palestinian people I would ask those who are making the speeches to examine what your country is doing to help other than speech making."
Last year,the United States gave $364 million to help Palestinians, but Haley failed to add that in January the Trump administration slashed its 2018 funding by $300 million, leaving UNRWA in an unprecedented financial crisis.
Since then, the agency has held two emergency pledging conferences and raised $238 million, but still faces a $217 million shortfall and has warned that it may have to delay the start of the September school year. UNRWA schools educate more than half-a-million children in the Palestinian territories and across the region.