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Imran Khan fights Nawaz Sharif in Pak elections, Bilawal waits in the wings

Polls show Imran Khan's PTI and the jailed Nawaz Sharif's PML-N in a tight race. Bilawal Bhutto's PPP is expected to play kingmaker should neither party win a majority, which is expected

Bees saal baad

Cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan is hoping to become Pakistan's prime minister after 20 years of being dismissed at the polls, as the country prepares to vote in a tense election pitting him against the party of jailed ex-premier Nawaz Sharif. (Text inputs from Reuters)

Sympathy vote

However, the PML-N could reap a sympathy vote after Nawaz Sharif returned to be arrested on July 13 along with his daughter Maryam, leaving his cancer-stricken wife in a London hospital. They deny wrongdoing. Sharif released an audio recording from jail on Monday, urging supporters to send his party back to the government for a second term."Even in this prison ... I can hear the chants of 'give respect to vote' from all directions," Sharif said. In photo: Current PML-N chief and Nawaz Sharif's brother Shehbaz Sharif.

Military coup

Nawaz Sharif's supporters argue his downfall was politically motivated and engineered by the army establishment, representing a blow to the 'sanctity of the vote' that gave his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) a majority in the last elections.

A tight race

Recent nationwide polls indicate a tight race, with Khan's party ahead on 30 per cent in one survey, compared to 27 per cent for PML-N. Sharif's party tops another poll with 26 per cent compared to 25 per cent for Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

The show must go on

The Pakistan People's Party could emerge as a coalition kingmaker if no party wins a majority, as many expect. In photo: The PPP's Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 29, son of two-time Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated in 2007.

Bash on regardless

A new Islamist political party launched by Hafiz Saeed's followers has been banned. But that has not stopped the LeT co-founder from hitting the campaign trail, denouncing the outgoing government as 'traitors' and whipping up support for the more than 200 candidates he backs.

Fiery rhetoric from a wheelchair

A number of hardline parties are participating in the July 25 election. One new party, the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan, campaigns under the rallying cry 'death to blasphemers' and is fielding 566 candidates. In photo: Tehrik-e-Labaik leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi.

Comic relief?

Jibran Nasir, a human rights lawyer, is a rare breed in Pakistan: an avowedly secular, progressive candidate in the overwhelmingly Muslim country of 208 million, where most parties appeal to an Islamic vote bank. Nasir aims to challenge the prevalent extremist discourse. 'Our campaign is bigger than just my win... What it is symbolising for the people is a change in narrative,' he said.