Sharif, Bhutto parties in big gains in Pakistan election; Musharraf party losing

February 19th, 2008 - 9:59 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, Feb 19 (IANS) People rejected religious parties and former ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) that was backed by President Pervez Musharraf as the early results were announced for 115 National Assembly seats out of 272. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N and assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) made big gains in elections that were held amid fears of violence and rigging allegations by the opposition against Musharraf and his allies. According to the results announced for the 140 National Assembly (NA) seats, PML-N was leading with 52 seats, followed by PPP with 44 seats, PML-Q 17 and Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) with power base in urban Sindh got nine seats. Other seats were captured by smaller parties or independent candidates.

“Yes there was pre-poll rigging and it’s because of that, the Q-League succeeded in getting a couple of seats,” PML-N spokesman 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 81 seats followed by PPP with 43 seats and PML-Q with just 36. In Sindh PPP was ahead with 31 seats followed by MQM with 24. The Punjab assembly has 380 seats.

In Balochistan PML-Q, however, was on the top with 11 seats in the house of 65, followed by Balochistan National Party (BNP) with seven seats. In the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), the Awami National Party (ANP) was ahead with 27 seats followed by PML-N with 16 seats.

The election trend generally shows anti-Musharraf vote who said Monday that he will accept the results and is ready to work with any party. But Sharif, who returned to country seven years of exile, had repeatedly said that he would not work with Musharraf.

On the other hand Musharraf’s another ally MQM chief Altaf Hussain was quick to announce support to PML-N and PPP in forming governments in centre and Sindh province.

Several top leaders of Musharraf-backed PML-Q lost in the polls mostly by PML-N in Punjab and by PPP in Sindh. PML-Q president and former prime minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was defeated on both the NA seats including on his home constituency in Gujarat by PPP candidate Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, the electoral battlefields they have dominated for decades.

Six-time winner Sheikh Rashid Ahmed from Rawalpindi was defeated miserably by PML-N’s Hanif Abbasi and Javed Hashmi where he ruled for over two decades. Former speaker of the National Assembly Chaudhary Amir Hussain was defeated by a female candidate Firdous Ashiq of PPP who had recently joined it after developing differences with PML (Q) leadership

Former defence minister Rao Sikandar Iqbal, a closed aide of Musharraf too lost his seat to PPP Sajjadul Hassan by a big margin. PML-Q’s stalwart Hamid Nasir Chatta was defeated by Iftikhar Ahmed Cheema in Gujranwala.

Several former ministers including Liaquat Jotoi, former commerce minister Hamayun Akhtar Khan, former Minister for religious affairs Ijazul Haq have also lost their seats.

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 spokesman Tariq Azeem adding there is no reason for not accepting 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.

However, the results should be equally shocking for Musharraf, who left the army chief’s position in December before taking oath as civilian president. Until a day before the polls, he was hopeful that PML-Q would win the polls. But now things could be really difficult for him with the parliament packed by his opponents that too by the party of man whom he sent into exile after overthrowing his government into 1999.

“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 to be very close to Musharraf in the previous setup.

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