Pakistan extends nationwide voting by one hour: Official

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Pakistan's election commission announced on Saturday that it would extend nationwide voting in landmark polls by an extra hour, with people still queuing to cast their ballots.

"A decision has been taken to extend the voting time by one hour," spokesman Altaf Ahmed told AFP just minutes before the polls were due to close, at 1200 GMT (*pm Singapore time).

In seven constituencies of Pakistan's largest city Karachi polling was extended by three hours until 1500 GMT because voting started late, an official said.

An election commission spokesman told AFP earlier that turnout was 30 per cent at midday and was expected to reach 60 per cent by the end of the day, which according to official statistics would make it the highest since 1977.

In Lahore, the capital of Punjab province which elects a little over half the number of seats in the national assembly, an AFP reporter said the streets were festive in the final hours of voting.

Party banners streamed from cars, motorbikes and rickshaws, which thronged the streets along with supporters draped in flags and headbands who shouted slogans.

Rashid Saleem Butt, 50, told AFP he had always supported the centre-right Pakistan Muslim League-N party that many expect to win, but switched to the rising Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party of cricket star Imran Khan.

"It's a very happy atmosphere," he said. "We're really enjoying this moment - people are very much happy about the chance to have change."

Adil Butt, 52, agreed. "Tonight we will celebrate in the streets all over our district," he said.

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