Nawaz Sharif declares victory after Pak votes in historic election

Nawaz SharifSupporters of the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) hold a portrait of party leader Nawaz Sharif as they attend an election campaign rally in Rawalpindi. (Reuters)

24 killed, massive turnout, Imran and PPP trail PML (N) in early trends * WIll take off from where Sharif, vajpayee left relations: Nawaz aide

Millions of Pakistanis defied Taliban threats and braved deadly violence that claimed at least 24 lives to vote in their country's historic general election on Saturday.

Unofficial trends broadcast by television channels showed a clear early lead for Nawaz Sharif's PML (N) in the National Assembly, followed by Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Around midnight India time, Geo News was showing victories and leads at 115 seats for the PML (N), and at 38 for the PTI.

President Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) seemed headed for a comprehensive defeat, having won or leading at only 35 seats. Independents were leading at 22, JUI at 11, MQM at 9, PML(Q) at 5 and Jamaat-e-Islami at 3 seats, Geo News said.

Nawaz Sharif appeared on the roof of his party's headquarters in Model Town and addressed thousands of his singing, dancing supporters. "It has been confirmed that the PML (N) will emerge as the single largest party," he said. "People should pray that tomorrow the Muslim League (N) is able to form the government without crutches. Please pray that we do not need anyone's help to form the government."

In what was, however, a significant outreach to political parties other than the PTI and PPP whose help the PML (N) is likely to need to form the government, Sharif also said: "My brother, my party colleagues and I took a lot of abuses during the campaign, but I am willing to forgive all of that for the sake of the country. I appeal to everyone to come to the table ó not for me, but for Pakistan."

As crowds thronged Sharif's jalsa, young men on thousands of motorcycles roared around the city, waving the flags of both the PML (N) and PTI. One incident of firing was reported in a clash between the two sides.

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