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Violence clouds Pakistani elections

May 10, 2013 at 10:50 AM

UNITED NATIONS, May 10 (UPI) -- There are concerns that the recent wave of violence in Pakistan will undermine the chance for a peaceful election, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

Pakistani voters head to polling stations Saturday for national and provincial elections. Several people have died in violence that's preceded Election Day.

Ban said he was concerned about the wave of violence that's targeted politicians and political rallies ahead of the elections.

"He hopes that all eligible Pakistanis peacefully take part, regardless of their religious affiliation, ethnic background or gender and carry out their civic duty on this important day," a statement from Ban's spokesman said.

Ali Haider Gilani, son of former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, became the latest victim of political violence when he was kidnapped this week.

Director of Afghan and Pakistani programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace Andrew Wilder said the elections are a milestone for a country with a long record of political violence.

"Unfortunately, the dramatic increase this past month in electoral violence, and in particular attacks on the candidates and supporters of parties perceived to be 'secular,' has now called into question how level the playing field will be," he said in a statement.

Saturday's elections would mark Pakistan's first democratic transition of power.

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