A homemade bomb exploded near a polling station Thursday while clashes between supporters of rival candidates in Pakistani municipal elections left four dead and 70 others wounded, police said.
Security was beefed up for the first round of the three-phase elections in 53 districts across the country, with authorities deploying some 35,000 policemen, 10,500 paramilitary troops and 40,000 soldiers to guard polling stations and voters.
The homemade bomb exploded in Khuzdar, a town about 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, local government administrator Amir Farooqi said. No one was injured.
No one claimed responsibility for the blast, which damaged a perimeter wall at a school that was being used as polling station, Farooqi said.
Rival supporters of opposing candidates also clashed across the country, leaving four people dead and 70 others wounded, police said. One man was shot to death in Multan, a main city in Punjab province, said Mohammed Riaz, an area police official.
Another person was killed in the industrial city of Gujranwala, a third man died in Baluchistan, and another death was reported in Daska town in Punjab province.
Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said despite the pockets of violence "the polls have largely been peaceful," reports the AP.
Pakistanis voted on Thursday in the first phase of local elections that could determine whether President Pervez Musharraf will eventually incorporate liberal opponents into a future government.
The three-phase elections are officially being held on a non-party basis, but factions are openly backing candidates to try and ensure their power bases ahead of 2007 general elections.
Polls opened in 53 districts to elect councilors and voting in the remaining 56 will be held on Aug. 25.
On Sept. 29, the councilors elected in the first two rounds will elect powerful district chiefs, known as Nazims, who can use their clout to influence the 2007 parliamentary polls.
The parliament and four provincial assemblies will elect a president for a five-year term later in 2007, reminds Reuters.