Rani Singh

The countdown begins

The countdown begins
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Polls open at 8.00am and close at 5.00pm (Pakistan time). Counting starts immediately after that, with first results coming in over the next few hours.

The final numbers of seats being fought over on Monday have been adjusted slightly because of a few candidate deaths and also the worrisome tribal area security situation. The number of National Assembly seats being contested has dropped to 269 from 272. Provincial seats are now 570 from 577.

With the most seats in the contest, Punjab Province is one to watch. Analysts are not currently able to predict the outcome of what they’re calling a three-way race between the PML(N), the PML(Q), and the PPP.

The Dawn discusses why these elections are a referendum on President Pervez Musharraf and lists four possible election outcomes in its latest issue. Whatever happens, Pakistan watchers are describing how Washington and London are helping to nudge the man who has run Pakistan for the last eight years away from the centre of power. Interestingly, the Dawn says that Washington and London are simultaneously talking to all key political players in the frame.

I was interviewing Syed Ghaus Ali Shah former Defence Minister of Pakistan and PML (N) President of Sindh Province on the eve of elections on Sunday night. His mobile kept going off with party workers ringing him from Sindh. They were updating him with news, as well as seeking his advice. Sitting in a coffee house on the Edgeware Road, I reflected that London seems to have become the fifth Province of Pakistan.

At one point Shah got very serious as he told me he’d just been informed that, in Lahore, a PML (N) candidate had been shot along with his secretary and driver, and had died later in hospital. Shah told me that the other main contestant in the dead man’s constituency was a PML (Q) candidate, the son of PML (Q) chief Parvaiz Elahi, whose party is pro-Musharraf.