Page last updated at 09:22 GMT, Thursday, 26 June 2008 10:22 UK

Pakistanis vote in by-elections

Polling in February
Pakistanis last went to the polls in February

Polling in by-elections is under way in Pakistan, a day after the supreme court postponed voting in a seat where former PM Nawaz Sharif wants to stand.

Candidates are contesting five seats to the national parliament and at least 23 seats in provincial parliaments.

The government appealed on Mr Sharif's behalf against a ban stopping him from running in a Lahore parliamentary seat.

He was barred because of convictions relating to his removal from power by Pervez Musharraf in 1999.

Power base

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Karachi says that Thursday's polling is taking place amid tight security.

Our correspondent says that the delay in voting for the seat which Mr Sharif hopes to contest means that public interest in the vote has diminished.

Nawaz Sharif
Mr Sharif wants to re-enter parliament

The results are unlikely to produce any surprises, our correspondent says, although the former premier's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party is expected to consolidate its power base in the province of Punjab.

Thursday's voting will not affect the balance of power in the national assembly.

Pakistan held general elections in February in which the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of murdered former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the PML-N soundly defeated the party of US-backed President Musharraf.

But polling was delayed in a number of national and provincial parliamentary seats for a variety of reasons, including political unrest and candidates winning more than one seat in February.

A panel of three supreme court judges in Islamabad said on Wednesday that it would not deliberate on the issue of whether Mr Sharif can compete for his seat until 30 June.

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