Pakistan is on edge as the South Asian nation heads to the polls Thursday for a widely anticipated general election in which its charismatic – and widely popular – former leader is barred from standing.
Imran Khan, 71, is a former international cricket star who rose to Pakistan’s highest political office before he was ousted from power in a storm of controversy. Now the former prime minister is imprisoned on multiple convictions and banned from contesting the vote against his rivals – scions of the country’s elite political dynasties.
The vote, delayed by a year, comes as nuclear-armed Pakistan faces mounting challenges – from economic uncertainty and frequent militant attacks to climate catastrophes that are putting millions at risk. That sets the stage for a difficult road to recovery for whoever wins in a nation where no democratically elected prime minister has ever completed a full term in office.
Two blasts in separate locations in the southwestern province of Balochistan on Wednesday, a region plagued by decades of insurgency, killed at least 30 people and injured another 40, underscoring how political violence has spiked ahead of the vote.