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)

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little