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Imran Khan's supporters lead in Pakistan election

Supporters of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan have the edge  in Pakistan's election, taking close to half the seats decided in a delayed count.

Local media Geo News says independents, who mostly owe allegiance to Khan, have won 47 of 106 seats for which it has results. A total of 265 seats were contested in Thursday's election.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had announced 70 official results, with independents getting just 24.

The Pakistan Peoples Party of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated premier Benazir Bhutto, had taken 24 seats while former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won 18.

The rest were won by small parties.

With Khan in jail his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was barred from the election, so his supporters contested as independents.

Analysts have predicted there may be no clear winner, adding to the woes of a country struggling to recover from an economic crisis while it grapples with rising militant violence in a deeply polarised political environment.

Pakistan election
Independent candidates loyal to Imran Khan have won seats in Pakistan's national election. (AP PHOTO)

The delay in the announcement of results was unusual for elections in Pakistan. Karachi's stock index and Pakistan's sovereign bonds fell because of the uncertainty.

An "internet issue" was the reason behind the delay, Zafar Iqbal, special secretary at the ECP, said without elaborating.

The government said it suspended mobile phone services ahead of the election on as a security measure, and they were being partially restored.

The main battle was expected to be between candidates backed by Khan, whose PTI won the last national election, and the PML-N of Sharif.

Khan believes the powerful military is behind a crackdown to hound his party out of existence, while analysts and opponents say Sharif is being backed by the generals.

The military has dominated the nuclear-armed country either directly or indirectly in its 76 years of independence but for several years it has maintained it does not interfere in politics.

Sharif, considered by many observers to be a strong candidate, has dismissed talk of an unclear result but a close aide, Ishaq Dar, told GEO TV that the party could form a coalition with the support of independents.

"I am confident that we will form a government," Dar said.

Pakistan election
There's been no clear winner in the Pakistan election so far as counting continues. (AP PHOTO)

Thousands of troops were deployed on the streets and at polling stations across the country for the voting on Thursday. Borders with Iran and Afghanistan were temporarily closed as security was stepped up.

Despite the heightened security, 12 people, including two children, were killed in 51 bomb blasts, grenade attacks and shootings by militants, mostly in the western provinces, the military said in a statement.

"Despite a few isolated incidents, the overall situation remained under control, demonstrating the effectiveness of our security measures," caretaker Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz said in a statement.

Washington was concerned about "steps that were taken to restrict freedom of expression, specifically around internet and cellphone use," State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters.

The United States strongly condemned election-related violence both in the run-up to the polls and on election day, Patel added.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also expressed concern about the violence and the suspension of mobile communications services, his spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement.

Amnesty International called the suspension of mobile services "a blunt attack on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly".