Sharif set for third term as Pak PM
Trends from some 250 of the 272 parliamentary seats that went to the polls showed that the PML-N was set to bag in excess of 110 seats, while the Pakistan People's Party and Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf were lagging far behind with about 35 seats each.
Addressing a group of jubilant supporters at his home in Lahore, Sharif proclaimed victory for the PML-N and asked people to pray that the final results, expected to be announced tomorrow, would show an "absolute majority" for his party so that he would not have to lead a weak coalition.
"The results are still coming in but we almost have confirmation about one thing that the PML-N has emerged the largest party in this election.
"I ask you to pray that the results that come in the morning will show that the PML-N can form government without outside support, so that the PML-N doesn't have to seek support from anyone," he said.
Sharif vowed to deliver on all the promises he had made during the campaign, including pledges to end crippling power cuts, set right the economy and to counter corruption.
"Our agenda and programme is to change the condition of the people. We should decide to change our condition because God only helps those who decide to help themselves," he said.
The two-time former premier also struck a conciliatory note, appealing to all parties to sit together with the PML-N to find ways to tackle Pakistan's pressing problems.
In remarks apparently aimed at Imran Khan, who had launched personal attacks on PML-N leaders during the campaign, Sharif said: "I never abused anyone but I forgive those who abused us".
The PML-N's strong performance will make it possible for Sharif to form government at the centre with the backing of independent candidates and smaller right wing parties like the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, analysts said.
Sources told PTI that the PML-N would also not be averse to working with the PPP after forming government as the party's leaders were not keen on an alliance with Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf.
To win a simple majority, a party or coalition would have to bag 137 of the 272 National Assembly seats for which polls were held.
Another 70 seats, reserved for women and non-Muslims, will be allocated to parties according to their performance in polls.
To have a majority 342-member National Assembly, a party or coalition would need 172 seats. .
Sharif, 63, served as premier during 1990-1993 and 1997-1999 but was ousted from office before he could complete his term once on corruption charges and later because of a military coup led by Pervez Musharraf.
After being deposed in 1999, he was jailed and sent into exile to Saudi Arabia.
He returned to Pakistan shortly before the 2008 polls and rebuilt his party, which has also returned to power in Punjab, the country's most populous and politically crucial province as it has more than half of the seats in the lower house of parliament.
The PML-N was returned to power at the national level after millions of Pakistanis braved Taliban threats and violence that claimed 24 lives to vote in the landmark general election that marked the first transition from one civilian government to another in the country's 66-year history.
The Election Commission extended polling by an hour to accommodate large numbers of voters who were still present at polling stations and officials said they expected the turnout to be around 60 per cent.
Long queues and chaotic scenes were witnessed outside thousands of polling stations across the country despite threats of attacks by the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which said it would target the elections as they are part of the "infidel" system of democracy.
The turnout remained strong throughout the day despite a string of gun and bomb attacks in Karachi, the countrys largest city, and across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces.
Thirteen people were killed and over 40 injured in three bomb attacks in Karachi.
In the northwest, two policemen were killed and four others injured in an explosion at Toorghar in Peshawar.
Four workers of the Pakistan Peoples Party were gunned down in Charsadda while five persons were gunned down in Balochistan.
There were also reports of clashes between supporters of rival political parties in parts of Punjab and Sindh provinces.
Women were barred from voting in the lawless North Waziristan tribal region, a stronghold of Taliban and al-Qaeda elements, and parts of Upper Dir and Swat districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
Announcements were made on loudspeakers of mosques early this morning that no woman would be allowed to vote, said residents of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan.
Pamphlets distributed in Miranshah earlier this week warned tribesmen not to let women vote.
Reports from Dir said leaders of political parties had reached an agreement that women would not be allowed to vote.