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Pakistan's army deploys thousands of troops ahead of elections

A Pakistani presiding officer, left, carries a voting material as she comes out along with army soldiers at a center for the distribution of voting materials in Rawalpindi on July 24, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Pakistan's military has deployed hundreds of thousands of troops to oversee polling stations across the country ahead of the July 25 elections.

Armed soldiers watched closely as election officials in the capital Islamabad on Tuesday distributed ballot boxes and voting materials for polling stations across the city.

The military stationed over 370,000 personnel nationwide to ensure the elections are held smoothly. It has said the soldiers will work with local law enforcement officials to ensure "a safe and secure environment" for voting.

Election officials say an additional 450,000 police officers have also been assigned to provide security.

"With the grace of God, we want to see a peaceful election tomorrow," Election Commission secretary Babar Yaqoob said, but warned that there were security challenges and threats.

Nadeem Khokhar, a counterterror police official in the eastern city of Lahore, said, "There are terrorism threats in some areas of Pakistan and its very unfortunate, but Lahore Police are quite capable and we are trying to do our best to prevent any such attacks."

"Our main challenge is basically to keep the election campaigns as well as the security on election day, to keep it safe for the public who will come out of their houses for voting."

Pakistani army soldiers arrive at a center for the distribution of voting materials in Rawalpindi on July 24, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

A string of bloody militant attacks have killed more than 180 people across Pakistan over the past few days.

On Sunday, a candidate and his driver were killed in a bomb attack in northwestern Pakistan. The bombing was the latest in a number of attacks targeting politicians campaigning ahead of the elections.

On July 13, a blast in the southwestern province of Balochistan killed nearly 150 people.

At least 22 people were killed in a bombing on an anti-Taliban political event held in northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on July 10. 

Nearly 106 million Pakistanis will be eligible to cast their ballots in the elections.

The run-up to the elections has been marred by accusations that the military is meddling in politics and muzzling the media to help put into power cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. Khan has denied colluding with the military.

During his final campaign rally held in Lahore Khan told supporters he would wipe out corruption from the top of government.

His main opponent, the three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was arrested on corruption charges when he landed in Lahore from London earlier this month.

Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to ten years in prison on July 6 in a corruption case linked to his family's purchase of upscale flats in London. His daughter, widely seen as his political heir, received a seven-year prison sentence.

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