Islamabad/New Delhi: “We are going to sweep the elections, we will win a clear majority, we don’t need an alliance to prop us up,” crowed supporters of Pakistan’s flamboyant cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which was racing ahead of main political rivals on a day marred by a suicide bombing and claims of military interference.
As a knife-edge Pakistan general election came to a close on Wednesday, vote-counting began, giving the poster boy of cricket a lead in a whopping 107 parliamentary seats while its main rival Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led by the jailed former prime minister and his brother Shahbaz trailed, leading only in a paltry 70 seats in the initial round of counting in an election marred by allegations by the Nawaz party of rigging by the powerful military. At least 70 of the seats in which the PTI are leading are in Punjab which sends 142 members to the 272 seat National Assembly.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of former president Asif Ali Zardari was leading in 36 seats, a sign he could play 'kingmaker' in case of a hung parliament, although Mr. Khan has categorically rejected any suggestions of a tie-up with either of the two mainstream parties.
Independents were ahead in 23 seats according to trends available for 230 seats out of 272 seats.