Bhutto Defeated in Pakistani Vote

By Steve Coll
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, October 25, 1990

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN, OCT. 25 (THURSDAY) -- Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto suffered a landslide defeat in Pakistan's national election, according to unofficial returns today.

Preliminary results in Wednesday's balloting showed Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) badly trailing its rightist opponents, the Islamic Democratic Alliance, or IJI from its Urdu-language initials. The ousted prime minister was beaten in one of two national assembly contests she entered, although she was elected overwhelmingly from her home district of Larkana.

With results reported in 136 of the country's 217 assembly contests, the IJI coalition led by industrialist Nawaz Sharif had captured 68 seats to 26 for the PPP and appeared comfortably positioned to win a majority in parliament. A tribal party allied with the IJI picked up six seats, while the remaining seats were divided among ethnic and religious parties, most of them expected to join the IJI.

Bhutto charged that the vote had been stolen by her opponents. "There has been massive rigging. . . . Pakistan is going to be faced with deeper crisis, and I see civil unrest," she said. Bhutto added, however, that she wanted to "play a constructive role" in building democracy in Pakistan.

Several hours after the polls closed, independent observers gave mixed report about the election's fairness, but there appeared to be little immediate evidence of massive vote fraud. Scattered instances of irregularities were reported, including charges that voters favoring the PPP were turned away from polling places and that force was used to seize several ballot boxes.

Reporters visiting a polling stations in hotly contested Punjab province found relatively few complaints about abuses or irregularities, however. Polling agents from the PPP and IJI monitored balloting throughout the day, and those interviewed said the voting had been generally satisfactory.

Members of a U.S.-led multinational observer team declined comment Wednesday night, saying they would not make public their findings about the election until Friday.

Bhutto has leveled complaints of rigging throughout the campaign, which began after her government was dismissed Aug. 6 amid corruption charges in a move backed by the military. After her ouster, an IJI-led caretaker government brought corruption charges against Bhutto, her husband Asif Ali Zardari, and members of the PPP government.

PPP leaders said the charges were part of a campaign to keep them out of power. A public perception that the IJI-led interim government had handled the cases involving Bhutto unfairly appeared to provide momentum to her campaign. Bhutto's husband, who was jailed this month on kidnapping and extortion charges, won an assembly seat from Karachi, but was defeated in a second contest in Sind province.

The IJI swept populous Punjab, which had been viewed as a key electoral battleground. Sharif defeated his PPP-allied opponents in two contests, winning in Lahore by about 20,000 votes. In that contest, the PPP candidate, retired air marshal Asghar Khan, denounced the result as fraudulent.

Bhutto was soundly beaten in a Peshawar assembly contest she had been favored to win. Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, a tribal leader with the Awami National Party (ANP), garnered 51,188 votes to 38,695 for Bhutto. But the former prime minster trounced her opponent in Larkana, 94,209 votes to 714

The IJI coalition is considered likely to form a government led either by Sharif or by interim Prime Minster Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, who also won a decisive victory in his home district in Sind. Sharif said Wednesday night that the IJI was well-positioned to "form a strong government . . . bringing {Pakistan} out of economic backwardness and ushering in an era of industrial and agricultural revolution."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 1990 The Washington Post Company