Supporters of Pakistani premier Imran Khan’s governing PTI party and opposition PPP clashed in one constituency, leading to two deaths.

A woman casts her ballot at a polling station during voting to elect lawmakers for legislative assembly in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, in Muzafarabad, Pakistan, July 25, 2021.
A woman casts her ballot at a polling station during voting to elect lawmakers for legislative assembly in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, in Muzafarabad, Pakistan, July 25, 2021. (Reuters)

Pakistan's ruling party of Prime Minister Imran Khan has appeared to be winning in a tight race to elect the regional assembly in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, where two poll workers from Khan's party were killed, according to officials.

Khan's party is leading with 24 seats out of a total 45, said Raja Azhar Iqbal, a focal person for the local election commission.

But Khan's top adviser Shahbaz Gill declared victory in a tweet saying his party has won 26 seats.

Unofficial estimates of the results started coming in late Sunday, Iqbal said, adding that the election commission will make a formal announcement on Monday.

Violence-sullied vote

Earlier, the army was called in following clashes between rival political activists in several parts of the valley and in Pakistan as voting to elect the new state assembly was suspended at dozens of polling stations for hours.

Supporters of Khan's ruling Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party and opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP) clashed in one constituency, leading to the two deaths, police officer Mohammad Shabir told Reuters by phone.

He said the deceased belonged to the ruling party.

Clashes between the rival parties were also reported from several polling stations in the capital Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Bagh, and Rawlakot districts. 

Four soldiers in a rapid response team involved in securing the poll also died when their vehicle plunged into a ravine in the mountainous area, the army said.

Three more were injured.

The violence mars the latest election test for Khan, who has faced growing criticism since his 2018 election win over his handling of the economy and competence to deliver on his election promises.

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Tight race

Typically, the Kashmir vote has been won by the country's ruling party. Analysts said this race was tighter than usual.

More than 700 candidates from Pakistan's three major political parties, which also include the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), alongside two local groups are running for 45 seats, a local election commission official Nasir Jan said.

The PPP appears to be leading with 10 seats while the PML-N has six, Iqbal said, adding that two seats seemed to be going to the local groups.

About 3.2 million people are registered to vote, he said.

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Source: Reuters