Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was leading in 103 parliamentary seats at the time of going to press while its main rival, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) or PML(N) was ahead in 59 seats in the initial round of the counting in an election marred by a deadly suicide attack and allegations of manipulations by the powerful military.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of former president Asif Ali Zardari was leading in 34 seats, indicating that he could play ‘kingmaker’ in case of a hung parliament, according to media reports.
Others, including Independents and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) – an alliance of traditional religious parties such as Jamaat-e-Islami led by Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan led by Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani and Tehreek-e-Jafaria led by Allama Sajid Naqvi – were leading in 59 seats.
A party can only form the government if it manages to clinch 172
seats in all. Pakistan’s National Assembly has a total of 342 members, of whom 272 are directly elected whereas the rest, that is 60 seats, are reserved for women and 10 for religious minorities – and are selected later through proportional representation among parties with more than five per cent of the vote.
The elections are being watched closely in India for which the leadership in Pakistan is important. Over 10.6 crore people are registered to vote.
The voting ended at its scheduled time despite calls by several major parties, including PML-N, PPP and PTI, to extend the polling time by an hour. They had complained of “a slow voting process” and thus sought more time to facilitate voters, a request that was rejected by the Election Commission.
Nearly 10.6 crore people are registered to vote for members of the lower house of parliament and four provincial assemblies. The election marks the second democratic transition of power in the nation's 70-year history.
For a smooth polling process, the ECP had deployed around 1.6 million staff at polling stations across the country. About 4,49,465 policemen and over 3,70,000 military personnel were deployed for security.
The run up to the elections has seen a massive crackdown on the media and allegations that the military has secretly backed the campaign of Khan while targeting his political opponents. The military has ruled
Pakistan through various coups for nearly half of the country's history since independence in 1947. Even during the civilian rule, the generals have wielded enormous power, setting the agenda for the country's foreign and security policies.
Former prime minister Sharif, the supremo of the PML-N who was jailed this month after being convicted in a corruption case, also accused the military of pressuring the judiciary to convict him. Both institutions deny the charge. Controversy has also arisen over allowing militant groups to participate in the elections.
Some of the infamous Pakistani extremist leaders, accused of spreading religious hatred and instigating sectarian violence, are among hundreds of candidates contesting the elections. The leading among them are Mumbai-terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed-led banned Jamat-ud Dawa's candidates who are fighting with an aim to make Pakistan a “citadel of Islam”.