Nawaz Sharif's PML-N has attained a majority in Pakistan's National Assembly after 18 independent candidates joined the party, placing it in a position to form government at the centre without striking an alliance with any other party.
Several independent candidates belonging to influential political families of Punjab and Sindh provinces are among those who have joined the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which emerged the single largest party in the May 11 general election.
They include the Legharis of Dera Ghazi Khan, the family of former President Farooq Leghari, and the Sherazi brothers of Thatha district of Sindh.
Earlier, the Legharis were with the PML-Q and thePakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf while the Sharazis were with the Pakistan People's Party.
The Hiraj family of Punjab's Khanewal district has also joined the PML-N after ditching the PML-Q.
Maverick lawmaker Jamshad Dasti, who won polls to a parliamentary seat in Muzaffarghar district as an independent candidate after saying goodbye to the PPP, has also joined hands with the PML-N.
Dasti also defeated the father of former Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in another parliamentary constituency.
To win a simple majority in the National Assembly or lower house of parliament, a party or coalition needs 137 of the 272 directly elected seats.
Another 70 seats, reserved for women and non-Muslims, will be allocated to parties according to their performance in the polls.
To have a majority in the 342-member National Assembly, a party or coalition needs 172 seats.
The 102-member senate or upper house of the parliament is currently controlled by the PPP.
The PML-N will assume charge of the government by June 2, according to caretaker information minister Arif Nazami.
In the Punjab assembly, 40 legislators-elect have also joined the PML-N.
The opposition in the house of 284 directly elected members will now comprise less than 40 members. Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, with 20 seats, will be the main opposition party in Punjab.
Image: PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif
Photograph: Damir Sagolj/Reuters