Mush loyalists trail
Islamabad, February 18
Well past mid-night, Chief Election Commissioner Qazi Muhammad Farooq announced the first official results of two National Assembly and one provincial assembly seats which were won by independents and the PPP, respectively.
According to other unofficial results aired by domestic TV channels, PPP’s Najmuddin Khan won from Dir district in the North West Frontier Province.
The CEC said Shaukatullah and Syed Akhuzada Chitan, both independent candidates from the northwestern tribal regions, were elected to the National Assembly.
Pakistan People’s Party candidate Shafiq Ahmed Khan was elected to the provincial assembly of Balochistan from a seat in Quetta, Farooq told a news conference.
According to other reports PML-Q leader Shujaat Hussain, who was Prime Minister under Musharraf, was defeated by his PPP rival Choudhry Ahmed Mukhtar in the national assembly constituency in Punjab province.
Musharraf’s confidante and high-profile former minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, also of PML-Q, lost to PML-N leader Makhdoom Javed in a prestigious Rawalpindi constituency.
Rasheed, a seven-time winner from his constituency and a former railway minister in the Musharraf government, is also contesting for another Rawalpindi seat.
Zubaida Jalal, a former minister in Musharraf’s Cabinet, was defeated as an independent candidate for the National Assembly from Kech-Gwadar in southwestern Balochistan province by Yaqub Bizenjo of the Balochistan National Party-Awami. She was the education minister during 1999-2001.
These trends proved that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto and PML-N of Nawaz Sharif were together heading towards winning a clear majority edging past President Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s loyalist Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q).
“The PML-Q may well be on way to utter rout,” a party leader acknowledged as results poured in showing its president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and dozens of former ministers trailing behind their rival.
Former chief minister of Punjab Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, who was projected as PML-Q’s candidate for the office of Prime Minister was reported to be losing on two of the three seats that he contested from. On the third seat, however, he had only a marginal lead.
Javed Hashmi who spent six years in Musharraf’s jail on charge of treason was winning against Shaikh Rashid Ahmed in Rawalpindi and a PML-Q candidate in Lahore.
Earlier in the day during polling most of the voters stayed home for security concerns and the turnout was expected to be a little over 30 per cent. It was particularly very low in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) which has seen a spate of bomb blasts in recent weeks.
Sporadic violence was reported from across the country with nearly 20 deaths but authorities said it was far less than was feared and no major incident was reported from any part of the country.
President Musharraf cast his vote in Rawalpindi and struck a conciliatory note during a brief chat with mediapersons promising to work with whichever party won in order to ensure “a stable government for next five year”. He urged all parties to shun politics of confrontation and accept election results. He said he was committed to a policy of reconciliation.
The PPP, however, appeared to have virtually swept polls in rural Sindh while in Karachi and several other major towns in the province, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Altaf Hussain had almost an uncontested run with its traditional rival Jamaat Islami boycotting the poll. The PPP also did well in southern Punjab and was due to win reaonsably in NWFP and a couple of seats in Balochistan.
Former premier Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) that had vigorously carried out an aggressive anti-Musharraf and pro-judiciary campaign, sprang the biggest surprise in Punjab and Hazara division of NWFP. The Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the only major component of the religious grouping, the Muttahida Majlise Amal (MMA), which did not boycott the elections, seemed to be making only a modest showing in NWFP and Balochistan where it had swept elections in 2002 and formed governments.