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Still Counting Votes, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Party on a Course to Majority

May 13, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next to Pakistan, where votes are still being counted after Saturday’s election, but one man is already claiming victory.

Margaret Warner reports.

MARGARET WARNER: Election night saw supporters of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, or PML-N, pour into the streets of Lahore in triumph. And, by today, they appeared on course to win a majority in the new Pakistani parliament.

That virtually guarantees that their leader, Nawaz Sharif, will be prime minister. He served twice before during the 1990s.

NAWAZ SHARIF, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz: For the sake of the nation, for your sake, for the sake of Pakistan’s 180 million people, and in order to end this wretched unemployment, poverty and inflation, I want to ask my opponents to come and sit with us.

MARGARET WARNER: Chief among those opponents was Imran Khan, a former cricket player turned founder of the reform-minded Tehreek-e-Insaf, or Movement for Justice, party. But its showing fell far short of expectations.

Khan spoke Sunday from a hospital where he’s recovering from a serious fall. And he complained of vote-rigging.

IMRAN KHAN, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf: There were irregularities, and we are going to produce a white paper on how the elections were rigged in different ways through the administration.

MARGARET WARNER: This is the first time in Pakistan’s history that one civilian government is poised to hand over power peacefully to another. 60 percent of eligible voters turned out, the most in more than four decades.

MOHAMMAD ASIF, Pakistan: I have come with the hope that a new and good Pakistan will emerge from this vote. God willing, Pakistan will be a prosperous country and Pakistan will be a country where people from everywhere in the world will come and invest.

MARGARET WARNER: They voted amid heavy security and in the face of violence by the Pakistani Taliban. In all, 29 people were killed in attacks on Election Day, including a bombing outside a campaign office in Karachi that left 11 dead.

The U.S. has had rocky relations with Pakistan’s government when it comes to cracking down on the Taliban and other militants on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. And there are indications that dealing with Sharif might be difficult as well.

Today, Sharif said Pakistan has good relations with the U.S., but he insisted that highly unpopular U.S. drone strikes inside Pakistan must be addressed. Meanwhile, city workers in the capital, Islamabad, were taking down election posters today. Final results are expected by midweek.