Sharif stages comeback in landmark Pakistan election
By Michael Georgy and John Chalmers
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Toppled in a 1999 coup, jailed and exiled, Nawaz Sharif has made a triumphant election comeback and was heading for a third term as Pakistan's prime minister.
The polls were a landmark, marking the first time one elected government will replace another. But the vote failed to realize the hopes of many that dynastic politics would end after years of misrule and corruption.
The wealthy steel magnate from the pivotal Punjab province held off a challenge from former cricket star Imran Khan who had hoped to break decades of dominance by Sharif and the Pakistan People's Party led by the Bhutto family.
Sharif, 63, declared victory in a jubilant speech to supporters as results from Saturday's election showed a overwhelming lead for his party.
"Results are still coming in, but this much is confirmed: we're the single largest party so far," he declared to hoots of joy from the crowd in Punjab's capital, Lahore.
"Please pray that by morning we're in a position that we don't need the crutch of coalition partners."
Despite pre-election violence and attacks on Saturday that killed at least 17 people, millions turned out to cast their ballot in a milestone election for a country that has been ruled by the military for more than half of its turbulent history.
With the count continuing into the night, Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) was leading in 119 of the 272 National Assembly seats that were contested. Continued...