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Vote Rigging? Charges Fly in Pakistan As Election Results Announced

New PM Sharif: Conservative who advocates free-market economics and is likely to pursue more privatization and deregulation

Supporters of former cricket star-turned-politician, and leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, Imran Khan celebrate the primary unofficial results of the country's parliamentary elections in Lahore, Pakistan on Saturday, May 11, 2013.

Supporters of former cricket star-turned-politician, and leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, Imran Khan celebrate the primary unofficial results of the country's parliamentary elections in Lahore, Pakistan on Saturday, May 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

UPDATE 2 - Sunday 1:28 PM ET

Pakistan's News Tribe is reporting:

Hundreds of activists of Pakistan Tehreek-Insaf including youngsters, students and families started sit in on Teen Talwar road against vote rigging in Pakistan’s biggest city Karachi on the election held on yesterday.

The road is completely blocked by the huge crowd of PTI activists, protesters allege that polling event was manipulated on several polling stations by a political party.

And now US President Barack Obama has issued a statement on Pakistan's election:

"I congratulate the people of Pakistan on the successful completion of yesterday’s parliamentary elections. The United States stands with all Pakistanis in welcoming this historic peaceful and transparent transfer of civilian power, which is a significant milestone in Pakistan’s democratic progress. By conducting competitive campaigns, freely exercising your democratic rights, and persevering despite intimidation by violent extremists, you have affirmed a commitment to democratic rule that will be critical to achieving peace and prosperity for all Pakistanis for years to come."

"The United States and Pakistan have a long history of working together on mutual interests, and my administration looks forward to continuing our cooperation with the Pakistani government that emerges from this election as equal partners in supporting a more stable, secure, and prosperous future for the people of Pakistan."

UPDATE - Sunday 11:29 AM ET

Agence France Presse is reporting:

Pakistani politician Imran Khan on Sunday welcomed the high turnout in the country's elections as a step forward for democracy, but said his party would submit a report on alleged vote-rigging.

[...]"I congratulate the entire nation for taking part in such a massive democratic process. We are moving forward on the path of democracy," the former cricket star said, speaking from the hospital bed where he is laid up with a fractured spine.

"Even those people who never voted in their life came out and the entire nation is happy to see it. Now there is awareness among the people of Pakistan that their fate is in their hands," he said.

In reference to allegations of vote-rigging made by members of his party, Khan said: "God willing, we will issue a white paper".

"There is usually victory and defeat, but all the pain of this defeat evaporated after I saw enthusiasm in youth," he said.

"I also thank our women. Never in the history of Pakistan have women come out and voted in such a big number. It is heartening to see that they have also contributed to efforts to make a new Pakistan," said Khan.

* * *

Charges of massive "vote rigging" are flying in Pakistan tonight as television networks are announcing that former Prime Minister and rich industrialist Nawaz Sharif has handily beat back a challenge from Imran Khan and his anti-US drone, anti-corruption platform.

Sharif is a conservative who advocates free-market economics and is likely to pursue increased privatization and deregulation.

Imran Khan has drawn massive crowds all over Pakistan in the final weeks of campaigning. And reports from Pakistan today showed that the momentum and enthusiasm for Khan's PTI (Pakistan's Movement for Justice) party carried into election day.

Polls this week showed that Khan was running "neck and neck" with the presumed front-runner former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Pakistan's The News reports:

The activists and supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) outnumbered rivals in every constituency exhibiting high spirits throughout the polling process, visits to a number of polling stations in Peshawar, Charsadda, Mardan and Nowshera revealed on Saturday.

The PTI had a number of voters and supporters greater than those from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).

The same spirit of the PTI workers was observed when they returned from their respective areas polling stations on motorcycles, cars and other vehicles carrying the party’s flags, banners and posters with Imran Khan’s portraits. The beaming activists were playing loud music and flashing the victory signs as if they were celebrating the likely victory.

The presence of voters and supporters of the major parties was thin. It was astonishing to note that the voters wearing the JUI-F and PPP caps polled votes to PTI candidates. An auto rickshaw driver, carrying voters to a polling station, said: “This time the voters changed their policy. They came with the PPP and JUI-F people, but didn’t cast votes for them,” he added.

Al Jazeera reports:

It appeared clear that the challenge by the party of former cricket star Imran Khan did not have the momentum needed to trip up Sharif, a moneyed political veteran who has long relied on a patronage system to win votes, especially in the key province of Punjab.

Still, Khan's Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) looked set to squeak into second place thanks to support from urban youths, who rallied behind his calls for an end to corruption and a halt to US drone strikes against armed groups on Pakistani soil.

That marks an end to decades of two-party dominance by the PML-N and Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

Fauzia Kasuri, a founding member of Khan's PTI, told Al Jazeera: "We had expected a better result, but consider that we have nearly 40 seats, it's a big achievement. [Imran Khan] has created a sense of belonging and participation in people, particularly the youth and women of Pakistan. I think it's a terrific thing for young people.

"We will be sitting in opposition, and will be a good opposition. There are lots of challenges facing the country. I feel the role of the opposition is as important as that of the government in these circumstances."

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