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Saturday, 12 October, 2002, 00:03 GMT 01:03 UK
No clear winner in Pakistan poll
Qazi Hussein Ahmed
Islamic parties made an unexpectedly strong showing
Pakistan is heading for a hung parliament after the first general elections since the overthrow of the last democratically-elected government three years ago.


The widespread anti-American feeling among the people has clearly gone in our favour

Qazi Hussain Ahmed, MMA
With results still coming in, official figures give no party an overall majority in the new national assembly.

At the moment, an alliance loyal to Pakistan's military leader General Pervez Musharraf is in the lead, with 75 seats.

It is ahead of the main opposition Pakistan People's Party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, which is in second place with 62 seats.

But the major surprise is a strong showing by a grouping of anti-American Islamic parties.

The religious alliance known as Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) has secured 48 seats, making it the third strongest force.

The polls are the first since President Musharraf seized power in a coup in 1999.

Rigging allegations

Mrs Bhutto's party is questioning what it calls an inexplicable delay in issuing the results.

Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto: Concerns about poll rigging
"It has been a highly controversial election and we believe there has been widespread rigging," said Mrs Bhutto from her home in London.

Former Premier Nawaz Sharif - currently in exile in Saudi Arabia - told Reuters that he had no doubt "the worst kind of rigging" was going on.

However, Commonwealth election observers say Thursday's elections were transparent, although they have expressed concern about allegations that government resources were used in the run-up to the polls to help pro-Musharraf candidates.

General Musharraf promised the elections would be free and fair, but opponents have accused him of distorting the political landscape by effectively barring two former premiers and strengthening his own powers.

Anti-Americanism

The BBC's world affairs correspondent Mike Wooldridge, who is in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, says the main surprise so far has been the performance of the MMA.

Results so far (at 2150 GMT)
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal - 48 seats
Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid - 75
Pakistan People's Party - 62
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz - 15
Others - 63

Traditionally, the Islamic parties have always found it hard to actually win seats but this time they have sought to capitalise on opposition to Pakistan's partnership with the United States in the bombing of Afghanistan and in the war on terror.

"People wanted a change from the past corrupt rulers and the pro-US policies of General Musharraf," said MMA spokesman Qazi Hussain Ahmed.

"The widespread anti-American feeling among the people has clearly gone in our favour and we are very happy over it," he said.

The MMA has done particularly well in North West frontier province, bordering Afghanistan.

Close contest

In Pakistan's largest province, Punjab, the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q) is in the lead.

Mrs Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) won many seats in Punjab and southern Sindh, while former Mr Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has performed badly in its traditional stronghold in Punjab.

Mrs Bhutto and Mr Sharif are barred from standing in the elections under a decree passed by General Musharraf.

Democracy doubts

President Musharraf has vowed to transfer executive power to the new prime minister following the election.

Ballot papers
The election is the first in Pakistan for five years
He promised to return the country to civilian rule soon after he overthrew Mr Sharif in 1999, whom General Musharraf accused of corruption.

But critics say the steps towards democracy are cosmetic and real authority will remain with the president.

General Musharraf has retained the power to dismiss the parliamentary assembly and extended his term of office by five years in a controversial referendum earlier this year.

Despite observers' misgivings, the United States welcomed the election as "an important milestone in Pakistan's ongoing transition to democracy".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Susannah Price
"Not everyone accepts the results"
The BBC's Lyse Doucet reports from Islamabad
"President Musharraf has the ultimate power in this assembly"
Pakistani High Commissioner, Abdul Kader Jaffer
"Now they'll be four or five parties who'll have to work together to make democracy a success"
Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

Background

TALKING POINT

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BBC WORLD SERVICE
See also:

10 Oct 02 | South Asia
09 Oct 02 | South Asia
08 Oct 02 | South Asia
08 Oct 02 | South Asia
08 Oct 02 | South Asia
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