Islamabad: Nawaz Sharif was yesterday poised to return to power after a 14-year hiatus and Pakistan was set to make a transition from one democratically elected government to another as most results of the National Assembly polls came in.
A beaming Sharif promised change following a bitterly-fought election that saw the country of 180 million face a string of terror attacks. Unfazed voters defied Taliban diktat and bombings to cast their vote Saturday, recording a 60 percent turnout.
“I want to assure you all that I will honour all commitments I and my party leaders had made during the election campaign,” Sharif, 63, told a cheering crowd as unofficial results showed his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party had surged ahead of its rivals.
Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) appeared to become the second largest party, pushing the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to an inglorious exit from power and the third position.
Addressing media persons, Sharif said a new round of talks will be resumed with India on the Kashmir issue, Dunya News reported.
Congratulating Sharif, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday expressed New Delhi’s desire to work with the new government in Islamabad. He also invited Sharif to visit India.
“PM (Manmohan Singh) extends his congratulations to Mr. Nawaz Sharif and his party for their emphatic victory in Pakistan’s elections,” the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted.
The last meetings at the top leadership level were held between Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at New Delhi and Tehran in April and August 2012, respectively.
Sharif has served as the country’s prime minister for two non-consecutive terms from November 1990 to July 1993 and from February 1997 to October 1999. However, his both governments were dismissed before completing their constitutional term.
He said every possible effort would be made to steer the country out of the current crisis and make it a peaceful and prosperous country.
“It is our desire to get absolute majority in the National Assembly so that we should not have to beg for votes for formation of coalition government as coalition governments could not deliver properly,” he said.
Sharif promised that after assuming the office of the prime minister he would convene a meeting of all political parties to get solid proposals to resolve the issues of poverty, price hike, load-shedding, unemployment and other problems being faced by the country.
Of the 152 seats, results for which have been officially declared so far, the PML-N bagged 86 seats, 21 went to Imran’s PTI, and 15 to the PPP of President Asif Ali Zardari.
Among others, 9 went to independent candidates, 8 to Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), 4 to Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), 2 to Jamat-e-Islami, 2 to Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and 5 to others, reported Xinhua.
The National Assembly has a total of 342 seats, and the four provincial assemblies together have 728 seats. Elections were held to 268 of the National Assembly seats. Of the others, 60 seats are reserved for women and 10 for non-Muslims. Elections in four constituencies were countermanded following the death of a candidate in each.
Several world leaders Sunday felicitated Sharif on his party’s victory.
Those who telephoned Sharif included King Abdullah of Saudi ArabiaÂ‚ United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed-al Nahyan, Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoganÂ‚ Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Radio Pakistan reported.
Nawaz Sharif is married to Kulsoom Nawaz and has three children – Maryam, Hassan and Hussain.
His second term saw Pakistan conducting nuclear tests in 1998, days after India carried out its own. He found himself in conflict with his then newly-appointed army chief, Pervez Musharraf, on Kargil.
Sharif’s second government was ousted in a military coup Oct 12, 1999. He was subsequently arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment by an anti-terrorist court in April 2000 on two counts of hijacking and terrorism over the diversion of Musharraf’s plane when he was coming in from Sri Lanka when it was low on fuel.
Sharif returned to Pakistan in November 2007 and six years later is all set to become the prime minister for the third time.