Pakistan's main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has swept the country's last by-polls ahead of next year's general election, winning seven out of eight provincial and national assembly seats that went to the polls in Punjab province.
Five of the seats were vacated by the PML-N, one each by the PML-Quami and PML-Q Forward Bloc, and one by the ruling Pakistan People's Party after the supreme court ruled that persons with dual nationality could not be lawmakers.
Both the Pakistan People's Party and PML-Q, which are partners in the ruling coalition at the centre, have accused the PML-N government in Punjab of using 'state machinery' for yesterday's by-polls and of blatantly violating the election commission's code of conduct in Sahiwal, Gujrat and Gujranwala districts.
Incidents of aerial firing and torture of rivals were reported from some constituencies, officials of PPP and PML-Q said.
Manzoor Wattoo, who was recently made the head of the PPP in Punjab, appeared to have failed in his first assignment to mobilise the party as its candidates suffered heavy defeat in the face of his tall claims that he would give a 'tough time' to the PML-N.
PPP insiders said Wattoo had failed to develop a good understanding with the PML-Q leadership in its stronghold of Gujrat ahead of the by-polls.
According to unofficial results, PML-N's Malik Hanif Awan secured over 100,000 votes and defeated PML-Q's Naseer Rehman (76,000 votes) in a Parliamentary seat in Gujrat.
In another parliamentary seat at Cheechawatni in Shahiwal, PML-N's Zahid Iqbal bagged 75,000 votes and defeated independent candidate Rai Nawaz (65,700 votes).
The PPP had won the seat in Sahiwal in 2008. Zahid Iqbal was earlier PPP lawmaker and quit his parliamentary seat because of his dual nationality. He joined the PML-N after renouncing his foreign nationality.
PPP Punjab information secretary Raja Amir, who contested a legislative assembly seat in Sialkot, lost by a big margin to PML-N's Chaudhry Akram. Amir got only 5,135 votes.
PML-N's Mohsin Ashraf secured 35,000 votes to defeat PML-Q's Ansar Iqbal in another assembly seat in Sialkot. In an assembly seat in Kasowal, PML-N's Hanif Jatt bagged 42,294 votes and defeated a PML-Q candidate.
PML-N's Nawaz Chohan secured 35,000 votes and defeated PPP's Lala Asad in an assembly seat in Gujranwala. In Jehlum, PML-N backed independent candidate Khadim
Hussain secured 39,000 votes and defeated another independent candidate. In Narowal district, PML-Q's Omar Sharif defeated the PML-N's Namat Javed.
PML-Q spokesman Kamil Ali Agha alleged that the Punjab government used its state machinery and resources to rig the by-polls. He said the election commission's code of conduct was blatantly violated and the poll panel should look into it."With the help of the police, PML-N activists forcibly snatched ballot papers from PML-Q voters and stamped them," Agha claimed.