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March 4th, 2009
Pakistan at the Polls
Map: Pakistan's Electoral Politics

Pakistan is divided into four provinces — Baluchistan, Punjab, Sindh and the North-West Frontier — and two volatile territories, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the Northern Areas, in Pakistani-administered Kashmir. In this fractured parliamentary democracy, most people vote on local rather than national issues, and the mainstream political parties that hold sway in the big cities have to compete with feudal dynasties and tribal warlords in the rural areas. The major parties are the governing PPP or Pakistan People’s Party led by the Bhutto family, and the Pakistani Muslim League, divided into PML-N, led by Nawaz Sharif, and PML-Q, the party of former President Pervez Musharraf. All three are considered secular — despite the country’s reputation as a hotbed of Islamic extremism, the MMA, a coalition of Islamic parties, holds only 4 percent of the 442 seats in parliament.

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