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WHILE the opposition cried foul and levelled serious allegations of large-scale poll fraud, panels backed by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League and its allies claimed victory in Karachi and nine districts of interior Sindh where the first round of local polls were held on Thursday.

With the announcement of results being inordinately delayed, the overall trend in Punjab showed a change in indications received on late Thursday night when it was said that the opposition was gaining an upper hand. According to unofficial results received till late Friday night, the ruling PML appeared to have an edge over its rivals in many areas and was in a neck-and-neck fight in others.

The election commission said the complete official results would be announced on Saturday.

In the NWFP, the Watan Dost Panel backed by the Awami National Party bagged most of the seats in Peshawar, followed by the Al Khidmat group of Jamaat-i-Islami and the Awam Dost Panel (ADP) of the PPP.

Partial unofficial results received from other parts of the province showed groups supported by major parties claiming varying shares.

In Balochistan, the PML swept the polls in six of the 14 districts, while the JUI (F) got three districts. The remaining districts went to groups backed by nationalists and other parties.

In the nine districts of lower and upper Sindh, the PPP-backed Awam Dost Panel suffered a major setback. The results received till Friday night indicated that the ADP had been virtually routed in the districts.

The PML-backed Khushhal Pakistan panel, the Faqir Dost Panel backed by PML-F and the Haq Parast group of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement won most of the seats. Analysts in Hyderabad gave credit for the ADP’s defeat to Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim who they say has outdone even the late Jam Sadiq Ali in giving a knock-out blow to the PPP.

His untiring efforts and manoeuvring with various groups paid rich dividends. He has been able to create dents within the PPP and use the differences within its rank and file to his advantage.

In Karachi, although all major parties made claims about victories, unofficial results showed that the MQM-backed Haq Parast group was far ahead of others. A statement by the MQM claimed that it had a clear lead over other parties with about 100 seats.

The Insan Dost Panel backed by the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal bagged 45 seats. The PPP-backed Awam Dost group came third with over 30 seats.

In Punjab, while the group of the ruling PML was ahead of its main rivals, it was losing some key districts. There were some districts where the situation remained unclear as neither side got a clear majority. The election commission is scheduled to announce official results on Saturday which will clarify the standing of each party.

According to reports received in Lahore, candidates supported by the ruling party were leading in Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalpur, Rajanpur, Vehari, Sargodha, Multan and Sialkot.

In Khanewal, the ruling party would have to take other groups along to be able to get a majority.

The opposition appeared in a better position in Gujranwala, Lodhran, Bahawalnagar and Pakpattan. The situation was unclear in Layyah.

In Balochistan, the districts where the PML emerged as single majority party include Nasirabad, Jaffarabad, Kharan, Barkhan, Bolan and Gwadar. The PML-backed groups also won the seats of nazim and naib nazim in some other districts.

Former prime minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali played a vital role in the success of the PML in Nasirabad and Jaffarabad districts. He managed to get all the PML candidates elected unopposed in 28 out of 46 union councils in Jaffarabad district.

The group supported by the Jamiat Ulema Islam (F) won the 15 union councils of Qila Saifullah and a majority of seats in the union councils of Pishin and Ziarat.

The National Party, Balochistan National Party-Mengal and other groups won most of the seats in Khuzdar, Mastung, Awaran and Nushki. The PML could not win any union council in the district of Mastung.

Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party has failed to win any union council in Qila Saifullah, the home constituency of MMA’s Senior Minister Maulana Abdul Wasay.

Unofficial results showed the PML-backed group won six union councils in Barkhan district while Pakistan People’s Party and its allies retained control of two union councils in the district.

In Jaffarabad, the PML won 36 of the 46 union councils using the name of Jamali Panel while the Khosa group backed by various opposition parties won 10 union councils.

In Nasirabad district, the PML-backed Roshan Khayal group won 10 union councils. PPP’s Awam Dost Panel won eight unions and the Jamhoori Watan Party and Khosa group four and two union councils, respectively.

In Pishin district, the JUI-F backed candidates won 19 of the 38 union councils. The Independent group backed by Senator Malik Sarwar Khan Kakar won seven union councils while the PML bagged six union councils. The Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party won five union councils.

In Sibi district, PML-backed Domki and Rind groups dominated the results in eight union councils.

The Sibi Muttahida Mahaz won three union councils, Awami Ittehad two, Watan Dost penal one and JUI two. In Harnai, Watan Dost bagged one, JUI two and Awami Ittehad three union councils.

All the seven union councils were won by the PML-backed panels, Al-Fateh and Nausherwani, who were contesting against each other in Kharan. Al-Fateh could retain five out of seven union councils in Kharan while in Ziarat JUI-F got majority with winning six out of 10 union councils. Muslim League could manage three and Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party won one union council.

In the important district of Gwadar, the PML was leading in seven of the 13 union councils, the National Party in three councils and BNP-Mengal in two. One union council was won by the Independent penal.

In Khuzdar, Awaran and Mastung districts, Baloch nationalist parties appeared to be winning most of the seats. The Balochistan National Party won in 12 union councils of Khuzdar district while National Party got 12 union councils.

The PML got seven union councils, BNP-Awami two and JUI one.

In Awaran district, National Party and BNP-Mengal won control of six union councils while the ruling PML bagged two union councils.