ISLAMABAD, Jan 16: The PML-Q and MMA emerged as main winners in Wednesday’s parliamentary by-elections across the country for which the Election Commission announced unofficial results on Thursday.
Both groups won three National Assembly seats each from 10 contested in a vote in which muscle in one case and religious fervour in the other seemed to have carried the day.
One seat each was won by two PML-Q allies — the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the PML-F — and two by independents.
Of the 18 seats of the four provincial assemblies, 10 were won by the PML-Q, two by the MMA, four by the National Alliance and one each by the PML-J and the PPP (Sherpao). The NA, PML-J and PPP-S too are the PML-Q’s allies.
The by-elections were held to fill seats vacated by those who had won two seats — either of the same House or one each of the National Assembly and a provincial assembly — in Oct 10 elections.
RIGGING CHARGES: Most PML-Q victories were marred by opposition charges of massive rigging by the use of state power.
But no such allegation was made about the striking gains by the MMA, which rules in the NWFP besides sharing power with the PML-Q in Balochistan.
Neither the PPP, which emerged as the second largest party in the National Assembly and the largest in the Sindh Assembly on Oct 10, nor the PML-N, the fourth largest, could win a seat.
Any loss or gain in the by-elections could make much difference to the governments already in place at the Centre and the provinces, but the parties were keen to retain the seats vacated by their members or grab more, particularly to be able to win the maximum number of seats in the elections for the Senate set for February.
BLOW TO PML-Q: Political sources said the loss of a National Assembly seat in Rawalpindi to the MMA was a blow to the ruling party, particularly to its Information and Media Development Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed who had vacated it.
The seat gained much importance after Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali and Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervez Ilahi went to campaign in Rawalpindi — and attracted sharp opposition criticism — for the Information Minister’s nephew, Sheikh Raashid Shafique, who lost to MMA’s Mohammad Hanif Abbasi by a big margin.
This was the first time a religious party had won a seat in Rawalpindi, which had been the stronghold since the 1970s of the PPP and later of the PML-N.
ANTI-US SENTIMENT: Political sources said the MMA fully exploited the anti-American sentiment in retaining the two National Assembly seats vacated by its leaders Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Qazi Hussain Ahmad in the NWFP and winning in Rawalpindi — where it also won a provincial assembly seat.
The result indicated that the anti-American sentiment over the Afghan war and a possible US-led attack on Iraq — which gave the MMA a sweep in the NWFP and Balochistan on Oct 10 — was not only persisting but spreading.
The sources said this was also a reminder to the PPP that a pro-American stance — presently the party’s backing to the US- led military operations in Afghanistan — had never won votes in Pakistan.
But the PPP’s main grouse in Wednesday’s bye-elections was what it called “massive rigging” in Sindh where most of its candidates had boycotted the voting and three of its workers were reported killed by its rivals in Khairpur.
“All limits of rigging were crossed,” PPP leader Amin Fahim told a private television channel.
“I think we were victims of manipulation and rigging,” PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar told Dawn on Thursday, blaming the authorities also for the loss of a National Assembly seat in Punjab that party stalwart Aitzaz Ahsan had vacated in Bahawalpur and has been won by an independent.
“It was an extension of the Oct 10 exercise to marginalize the PPP by hook or by crook,” he said, referring to President Pervez Musharraf’s policies to sideline the PPP and PML-N because of his opposition to their exiled leaders Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.
NA WINNERS: Here are winners for 10 National Assembly seats: NA-25 D.I. Khan-cum-Tank — Ataur Rehman, MMA; NA-34 Lower Dir — Ahmad Ghafoor, MMA; NA-56 Rawalpindi-VII — Mohammad Hanif Abbasi, MMA; NA-74 Bhakkar-II — Rasheed Akbar Khan, PML-Q; NA-142 Kasur-V — Sardar Talib Hasan Nakai, PML-Q; NA-163 Sahiwal-V — Saeed Ahmad Chaudhry, Independent; NA-187 Bahawalpur-V — Syed Tasneem Nawaz Gardezi, Independent; NA-201 Ghotki-II — Ali Nawaz Khan Mahar, PML-Q; NA-216 Khairpur-II — Syed Javed Ali Shah, PML-F; and NA-242 Karachi-IV — Dr Abdul Qadir Khanzada, MQM.
PUNJAB ASSEMBLY: In the by-elections for 10 Punjab Assembly seats, seven were won by the PML-Q and one each by PML- J, MMA and the National Alliance. The winners are: PP-8 Rawalpindi-VIII — Mohammad Waqas, MMA; PP-44 Mianwali-II — Aamir Hayat Khan Niazi, PML-Q; PP-47 Bhakkar-I — Saeed Akbar Khan, PML-Q; PP-61 Faisalabad-XI — Sardar Dildar Ahmad Cheema, PML-Q; PP-103 Gujranwala-XIII — Akmal Saif Chathha, PML-J; PP-110 Gujrat-III — Mohammad Basharat Raja, PML-Q; PP-142 Lahore-IV — Qaiser Amin Butt, PML-Q; PP-200 Multan-VII — Mohammad Hussain Khan Bosan, PML-Q; PP-245 D.G. Khan-VI — Mohammad Mohsin Khan Leghari, NA; and PP-266 Layyah-V — Mehr Fazal Hussain Sumra, PML-Q.
SINDH ASSEMBLY: Of the five Sindh Assembly seats, three went to the PML-Q and two to NA. The winners are: PS-10 Shikarpur-II — Faiz Mohammad Mahar, PML-Q; PS-12 Shikarpur-IV — Abid Hussain Jatoi, NA; PS-18 Jacobabad-VI — Imtiaz Ahmad alias Tariq Sheikh, NA; PS-76 Dadu-VI — Ehsan Ali Jatoi, PML-Q; and PS-86 Thatta-III — Syed Sarfraz Shah Shirazi, PML-Q.
NWFP ASSEMBLY: Of the two NWFP Assembly seats, one each was won by the MMA and the PPP-S. Winners: PF-20 Charsadda IV — Maulana Mohammad Idrees, MMA; and PF-67 D.I.Khan-IV — Israrullah Khan Gandapur, PPP-S.
BALOCHISTAN ASSEMBLY: The lone Baluchistan Assembly seat contested — PB-31 Kachhi-II — was won by Shah Zaman Rind of the National Allowance.