Islamabad/Lahore: Nawaz Sharif was on Saturday set for a third term as Pakistan's Prime Minister as his PML-N party took a massive lead over its rivals in the general election, according to provisional results from across the country. Trends from some 250 of the 272 parliamentary seats that went to the polls showed that the PML-N was set to bag in excess of 110 seats, while the Pakistan People's Party and Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf were lagging far behind with about 35 seats each.
Addressing a group of jubilant supporters at his home in Lahore, Sharif proclaimed victory for the PML-N and asked people to pray that the final results, expected to be announced tomorrow, would show an "absolute majority" for his party so that he would not have to lead a weak coalition. "The results are still coming in but we almost have confirmation about one thing that the PML-N has emerged the largest party in this election. "I ask you to pray that the results that come in the morning will show that the PML-N can form government without outside support, so that the PML-N doesn't have to seek support from anyone," he said.
Sharif vowed to deliver on all the promises he had made during the campaign, including pledges to end crippling power cuts, set right the economy and to counter corruption. "Our agenda and programme is to change the condition of the people. We should decide to change our condition because God only helps those who decide to help themselves," he said. The two-time former premier also struck a conciliatory note, appealing to all parties to sit together with the PML-N to find ways to tackle Pakistan's pressing problems.
In remarks apparently aimed at Imran Khan, who had launched personal attacks on PML-N leaders during the campaign, Sharif said: "I never abused anyone but I forgive those who abused us". The PML-N's strong performance will make it possible for Sharif to form government at the centre with the backing of independent candidates and smaller right wing parties like the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, analysts said. Sources told PTI that the PML-N would also not be averse to working with the PPP after forming government as the party's leaders were not keen on an alliance with Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf.
To win a simple majority, a party or coalition would have to bag 137 of the 272 National Assembly seats for which polls were held. Another 70 seats, reserved for women and non-Muslims, will be allocated to parties according to their performance in polls. To have a majority 342-member National Assembly, a party or coalition would need 172 seats.