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Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Musharraf wins huge backing
Polling agents in Islamabad count the votes
Electoral lists were abolished for the poll
General Pervez Musharraf has won an overwhelming victory in the referendum to extend his mandate as president of Pakistan for a further five years.

42.8 million "yes" votes
883,676 "no" votes
282,935 spoiled ballot papers
Votes cast: 43,907,956
Pakistan's Election Commission said General Musharraf had won with over 97% in favour of him staying in power.

According to the figures, turnout was higher than originally predicted - over 56%.

But the country's only independent human rights organisation says the poll has been marred by gross irregularities.

Musharraf supporters
Musharraf supporters started celebrations early
The opposition, which includes the main political and religious parties, boycotted the poll, arguing that it was unconstitutional. They estimated turnout at just 5 to 7%.

Ahead of the announcement, Pakistan's information minister, Nisar Memon, said the vote was "a massive victory for the people of Pakistan.

"They were not affected by the negative propaganda of the opposition... The opposition has been summarily rejected, and now they should accept the verdict of the people," he said.

'Election abuses'

Chief Election Commissioner Irshad Hassan Khan said General Musharraf had won 42.8 million "yes" votes, against 883,676 "no" votes, with 282,935 spoiled papers.

"We are satisfied the referendum was conducted impartially and peacefully," Mr Khan said.

But the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (PRCP) has issued a damning statement on the conduct of the referendum.

The flagrant abuse of election procedures degraded the very concept of democratic choice

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
Irregularities "exceeded its worst fears", chairman Afrasiab Khattak said.

"The manner in which the people were hustled into voting and the flagrant abuse of election procedures degraded the very concept of democratic choice," his statement said.

Student casts her vote
Some polling stations were busy, others deserted

Mr Khattak said observers who were supposed to be neutral had been seen "stamping ballots themselves".

"Voluntary turnout was very low," he said, with public sector workers being obliged to vote.

Many journalists have reported similar irregularities.

But the government insists the poll has been clean.

At Pakistan's last general election in 1997, official turnout was estimated to be 37% - a figure which opposition groups said was inflated.

Voters could cast their ballot anywhere provided they could show an identity card, driving licence or official letter, and electoral lists were abolished.

President 'indispensable'

General Musharraf seized power in a coup in 1999.

He has called parliamentary elections for October as part of his roadmap for the restoration of democracy.

Under the constitution, the president should be chosen by the members of the national and provincial assemblies and the senate.

I voted eight times as it was not very difficult... It was really fun

Voter Nawaz Bhutto

However, the supreme court rejected an opposition attempt to halt the referendum, upholding General Musharraf's argument that the constitution also justifies referendums on matters of national importance.

He has argued that it is vital for him to stay in power in order to fulfil his vision of turning Pakistan into a modern, democratic, Islamic state.

The military, a key component of Pakistan politics, has been fully supportive of the holding of the referendum.

The BBC's Adam Mynott
"Many people are surprised to see a turnout of over 50%"
Stephen Cohen, Brookings Institution
"I am not surprised that voting irregularities were found"
Pakistan Information Minister Nisar Memon
"The turnout is far beyond our expectations"
See also:

01 May 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Musharraf wins round one
29 Apr 02 | South Asia
Pakistan's ignored voters
29 Apr 02 | South Asia
Pakistan prepares to vote
28 Apr 02 | South Asia
Musharraf 'ready' for another term
22 Apr 02 | South Asia
Court examines Musharraf poll
05 Apr 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Musharraf's referendum gamble
03 Apr 02 | South Asia
Musharraf goes for 'Zia option'
03 Apr 02 | South Asia
Musharraf poll approved
29 Apr 02 | South Asia
Q&A: Pakistan referendum
01 May 02 | South Asia
Controversy mars Pakistan poll
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