Pakistan on Sunday held local elections in Gilgit-Baltistan, the northern part of the disputed region of Kashmir bordering China, amid heightened tensions with India.
Voting for the 23 seats of the regional legislative assembly took place weeks after Prime Minister Imran Khan announced his plan to give provisional provincial status to the region.
Pakistan’s only land route to China runs through Gilgit-Baltistan and the region is at the centre of the multi–billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Pakistan’s foreign minister on Saturday said rival India wanted to sabotage the CPEC and was involved in subversive activities in Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Tensions have run high since last year after New Delhi ended the semi-autonomous status of India-administered Kashmir, a predominantly Muslim area in the Himalayan valley controlled in parts by New Delhi and Islamabad but claimed by both in its entirety.
In August, Pakistan approved a new map showing the entire Kashmir region as part of the country and renamed a road in Islamabad Srinagar Highway, after the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir.
The polling took place at a time when Pakistan, according to officials, is in the middle of a second wave of coronavirus infections, much like that seen in many European countries.
Images aired by the local media showed long queues of voters, many of them without face masks.
According to the Health Ministry, 2,443 new COVID-19 infections and 32 related deaths were reported in the past 24 hours.
The country has so far reported 356,904 infections and a death toll of 7,141.