Musharraf gets a drubbing, Bhutto and Nawaz names carry the day

February 19th, 2008 - 1:30 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto
(Lead)
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, Feb 19 (IANS) Late Benazir Bhutto’s PPP and former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N were neck and neck Tuesday as the election results came in and it became evident that the people had rejected not only religious parties but also the PML-Q backed by President Pervez Musharraf. According to the results announced for 210 of the 272 National Assembly (NA) seats, Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party was leading with 69 seats followed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz with 65.

The last ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, trailed embarrassingly behind with 29 seats. The Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) with its power base in urban Sindh, got 16 seats. Independents won 22 seats while the Awami National Party (ANP) got 10. The Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) that had 78 seats in the previous parliament could get only three seats by late Tuesday morning.

Clearly, the PPP and the PML-N had made big gains in elections that were held amid fears of violence and rigging allegations by the opposition against Musharraf and his allies.

“Yes there was pre-poll rigging and it’s because of that, the Q-League succeeded in getting a couple of seats,” PML-N spokesperson Ahsan Iqbal told IANS. However, there has been no claim so far by PML-N to form the government.

In provincial assemblies, PML-N was leading in Punjab with 111 seats followed by PPP with 56 and PML-Q with 41. The Punjab assembly has 380 seats.

In Sindh, PPP was ahead with 43 seats followed by MQM with 29.

In Balochistan, however, the PML-Q was on top with 11 seats in the house of 65, followed by the Balochistan National Party (BNP) with seven.

In the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), the Awami National Party (ANP) was ahead with 27 seats followed by PML-N with 16.

The election trend generally shows an anti-Musharraf vote. He had said that he was willing to accept the results and was ready to work with any party.

Musharraf told TV news channels on Tuesday: “There should be reconciliation, and nothing should be done in anyone’s personal interest. I believe in politics of conciliation, not of confrontation.”

But Sharif, who returned to country seven years of exile, has repeatedly said that he would not work with Musharraf.

Musharraf’s ally, MQM chief Altaf Hussain, has been quick to announce support for the PML-N and PPP in forming governments in the centre and in the Sindh province.

Several top leaders of Musharraf-backed PML-Q lost in the polls, mostly to the PML-N in Punjab and to the PPP in Sindh.

PML-Q president and former prime minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was defeated on both the NA seats he contested, including in his home constituency Gujarat by PPP candidate Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar.

Six-time winner and former minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed got a drubbing in Rawalpindi, where he has ruled for over two decades, by PML-N’s Hanif Abbasi and Javed Hashmi.

Former National Assembly speaker Chaudhary Amir Hussain was defeated by Firdous Ashiq of the PPP who had recently joined Benazir’s party after differences with the PML-Q leadership.

Among the other big losers were former defence minister and close Musharraf aide Rao Sikandar Iqbal, PML-Q stalwart Hamid Nasir Chatta and former ministers Liaquat Jotoi, Hamayun Akhtar Khan and Ijazul Haq.

The polls were the final step in Pakistan’s transition to democracy after eight years of military rule, and the results appeared to dispel international and national fears that the elections would be rigged.

“If the results are confirmed we will play the part of the opposition as effectively as we can,” said PML-Q spokesperson Tariq Azeem, adding that there was no reason to not accept the results.

But another PML-Q official said that they were shocked by the results and accused Musharraf of betraying the party. “We never thought about such shocking results,” he told IANS, requesting anonymity.

The results come as a huge setback to Musharraf, who left the army chief’s position in December before taking oath as civilian president.

“His fate is in balance now…he may have to resign,” the PML-Q leader said. Musharraf last month said that if the new parliament tried to impeach him he would prefer to resign rather to face humiliation.

In such a situation Musharraf’s best option could be to woo PPP instead of working with PML-N, said the leader who was considered very close to Musharraf in the previous set-up.

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