According to reports, former federal minister and former PPP Secretary General Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar has comfortably defeated the PML (Q) Chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussein by at least 13293 votes. Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, the former Chief Minister of Punjab, cousin and brother-in-law of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussein, and President of the PML (Q) party in Punjab, has lost too - a huge blow to the pro-Musharraf party and a slap in the face for the three feudal politicians. The news is making top story on bulletins.
The uncharismatic Shujaat Hussein has been a key figure in this campaign, leading rallies and appearing on posters as the party has sought to distance itself somewhat from the unpopular policies of President Pervez Musharraf. With three mainstays of the PML (Q) deprived of their seats, the party begins to look dangerously close to collapse.
Meanwhile, BBC reporters have been describing their experiences of Election Day with stories of delayed voting, mis-sited polling stations and a low turnout.
While the PML (N) and PPPP vote is indicative of the unpopularity of the Musharraf regime, either of the parties currently leading still needs a clear majority of around 170 to form a government in the 342 -seat National Assembly. The way things are going, this doesn’t look likely, and a hung Parliament is a possible outcome.
The PPPP’s Asif Ali Zardari and the PML (N)’s Nawaz Sharif’s pow-wows happened because they calculated this scenario, and didn’t want to be caught out. A third coalition partner in this unlikely grouping of former rivals could well be the Pashtoun-based nationalistic Awami National Party.
There seems to be a sense of “now or never” both among politicians and among the people. Competitors have realised that in order to survive and maybe change the shape of things to come, they have to leap into bed with the strangest of partners.
If the election results play out the way they have started, commentators like Kamran Khan are saying that Musharraf may emerge with at least one brownie point. The President promised the world “The mother of all elections” and as some old faces fall off the wall to be replaced by other old faces, there may be something interesting emerging from all of this.