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Early Returns in Pakistan Election Indicate Big Wins for Opposition Parties

Political allies of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf are conceding defeat in Monday's general elections. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad that early results indicate sweeping gains for opposition parties in the national and provincial assemblies.

Early results in the national assembly elections indicate the Pakistan People's Party in the lead with the largest number of seats, edging out Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League.

President Pervez Musharraf's PML-Q party is a distant third. Religious parties, which had comprised a majority of the opposition in the previous parliament, appeared to fare poorly in early returns.

Chaudhry Shujat Hussain is the chairman of President Pervez Musharraf's PML-Q party and ran for a seat representing his family's political stronghold in Gujarat.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, he conceded that his party had lost its majority in parliament.

He says he accepts the results because it is the decision of the people and he says the decision of the people is always right. He says his party is ready to accept its role as the new opposition.

Pakistani media have portrayed the results as a stinging rebuke of President Musharraf and his political allies. A Newspaper headline declares "Democracy Takes Revenge" and private television channels ran footage of defeated PML-Q politicians who had guaranteed victory just days ago.

Supporters of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto danced in the streets in the party's political strongholds, across the country.

Officials with the Pakistan People's Party say they are still waiting for final results from the election commission before declaring victory, but that the early results are encouraging.

Raza Rabbani is a senior PPP politician and the opposition leader in Pakistan's senate. He says there are some reports of rigging, but overall, the election appears to be credible.

"By and large I would say it is a reflection of the sentiment of the people," he said. "It has turned out to be a referendum against the policies of General Musharraf."

Pakistan's election commission slowly released official results, throughout Tuesday. Officials say the results from most voting precincts could be known as early as Tuesday night.