Bhutto takes lead in Pakistan election: Fraud claim as both sides declare premature poll victory

NAWAZ SHARIF claimed early this morning that his conservative Pakistan Muslim League has defeated Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP), based on his party's unofficial tally. But Ms Bhutto's party was slightly ahead, and insisted she had bested Mr Sharif.

Both candidates pounced on the slow read-out of votes to proclaim they had thrashed their rival and would become the next prime minister, to take office on 19 October.

With only 60 of the 217 national assembly seats officially counted, Ms Bhutto was in the lead with 27 seats, six seats ahead of the Muslim League. Mr Sharif was nevertheless celebrating victory in his native town of Lahore. 'A majority of the seats were won by the Pakistan Muslim League. We have won the elections,' he crowed. Mr Sharif bases his victory boast on a rough count taken by his party workers when votes were counted in 34,000 polling stations across the country.

In her ancestral home of Larkana, a normally loquacious and confident Ms Bhutto was less than jubilant. Even before first results were announced, her party issued a statement complaining of electoral fraud. 'It was clear that some of the presiding officers (at polling stations) were openly subverting the sanctity of the poll to the detriment of the Pakistan People's Party,' the statement read.

She refused to see the press and locked herself in with her closest advisers. She seemed worried by the surprising twist in developments. However, a PPP spokesman, Shafqat Mahmoud, eventually emerged from Ms Bhutto's inner sanctum to dispute Mr Sharif's victory claims. According to their rough count, it was Ms Bhutto who was heading for a clear majority.

Mr Sharif claims to have routed Ms Bhutto, his arch-enemy, in the crucial state of Punjab, where he calculates that his party won between 58 and 70 National Assembly seats. His advisers also claim to have made deep inroads in Ms Bhutto's home state of Sindh, long considered a family stronghold, as well as in Baluchistan and the North-west Frontier. But the PPP spokesman said: 'Mr Sharif is talking nonsense.'

Throughout the voting, army Jeeps mounted with machine-guns cruised by polling stations to prevent violence. Late forecasts had originally given Ms Bhutto's party a thin edge over Mr Sharif.

Past elections have often been bloody and crooked. But with the country's polling stations guarded by troops, the habitual gang warfare between the political parties has been absent. More than 60 people died in campaign shootings. But according to Maleeha Lodhi, editor of the daily News: 'These have been the most peaceful polls in the country's history.'

Most soldiers on election duty were dispatched to the southern state of Sindh, where the country's third largest party, the Mohajir Qaumi Movement, boycotted the polls. In Karachi, where the MQM is strongest, many polling stations were empty. From his London exile, the MQM party leader, Altaf Hussain, accused the army of harassing his supporters, mainly Muslim migrants from India.

Ms Bhutto cast her vote in Larkana, the rural home of the Bhutto dynasty in a women-only polling station. She stood out as the only unveiled woman in a sea of burkas, the traditional body- length veil worn by Muslim women. It illustrated how difficult her quest for political power has been in this male-dominated society, despite being the daughter and heir of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, one of Pakistan's most charismatic leaders, who was hanged in 1979 after a military takeover.

The first woman prime minister in the Muslim world, Ms Bhutto was elected in 1988 but dismissed after 20 months by the autocratic president, Mr Khan, on corruption charges never proven. 'People want to give me a second chance,' she insisted.

Mr Sharif voted in Lahore as hundreds of admirers showered him with rose petals. A rich industrialist, he none the less has managed to capture the votes of Pakistan's aspiring urban lower-middle classes, who are deeply Islamic and conservative.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Pistorius leaves Pretoria High Court to be taken to prison

Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014

Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'


Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Life and Style

Company says data is only collected under 'temporary' identities that are discarded every 15 minutes

peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Life and Style

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Vendor Services Manager (IT) - Central London

£50000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Vendor Services Manager (...

C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML, JavaScript, CSS, MSSQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

English Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English Teacher - So...

French Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: French Teacher ? Sou...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album