Imran Khan’s party giving tough fight to veterans, Pakistan Peoples Party struggling
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) established an unbridgeable lead over other parties in Saturday’s elections. Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) were in a neck-and-neck tussle for a distant second position with leads in 37 seats each.
Early trends established in counting put the PML-N way ahead with the party leading in 112 seats in the 272-member National Assembly. Though there was no official announcement about the results, the PML-N claimed victory shortly before midnight with the leadership coming out to address supporters. With results still trickling in, Mr. Sharif was hopeful of a clear majority by morning.
While the PML-N entered the race as the front-runner, it picked up more seats than any of the analysts had accounted for. The PTI’s performance was along the party’s expected lines though the media had begun giving it more seats in the last couple of days in view of the crowds Mr. Khan was drawing. The PPP barely managed to hold on to Sindh while the Awami National Party (ANP) was demolished.
Many of the PPP’s heavyweights including former Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf lost the elections. Similarly, the ANP’s Asfandyar Wali Khan — heir to Frontier Gandhi, Khan Abdul Khan’s legacy — lost the family pocketborough Charsadda.
Results began pouring in immediately after polling closed in most parts of the country. In fact, television channels began putting out ballot-box-wise results even as polling was on as the Election Commission allowed an extra hour to make up for time lost in delays on its own account.
From morning, there were reports from various parts of the country of polling being delayed. In some cases, the delay was caused because the polling staff had not turned up. There were also instances of ballot papers not reaching polling stations on time. In Karachi’s NA 250, polling was delayed because of attempts to hijack vehicles transporting voting material from the Returning Officers to the polling stations.
Given the numbers killed in election-related violence over the past month, polling was by and large peaceful. Still, 24 people were killed in several incidents through the day; the maximum of 11 in a bomb attack on an Awami National Party (ANP) office in Karachi. Through these elections, the ANP has taken the most severe drubbing; first at the hands of terrorists and then from the voters as the party suffered serious losses at the hustings.
Minor bomb attacks were reported from elsewhere; mainly the north-western parts of the country. There were bomb blasts in Quetta, Mardan and Peshawar while three people were killed in a clash between two groups at Chaman. In Karachi, there were allegations of rigging with the Jamat-e-Islami even deciding to boycott the polls mid-day. Similar allegations were made by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement which complained that the party’s mandate had been hijacked.