ELECTIONS OF 2002 As directed by the Supreme Court in its verdict on the challenge to the legality of the takeover by the military in October 1999, Pakistanis went back to the polls on 10 October 2002 The Court had ordered that elections be held within a period of three years of the military’s assumption of power This was the eighth national election in the country’s history More than 70 parties took part A total of 2,098 candidates contested 272 general seats in the National Assembly; the remaining seats were reserved for women (60 seats), and non-Muslim minorities (10 seats) The expanded house, therefore, had a total of 342 seats The reserved seats were to be allocated on the basis of proportional representation of all parties securing at least 5 percent of the total general seats The Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam) (PML[Q]) won 76 seats, Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians won 62 seats, and 51 seats were won by the six-party religious alliance, the Muttahida-Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) obtained only 14 seats, while the Muttahida Qaumi Movement came in with 14 seats The turnout was disappointing, only 25 percent of an electorate of 72 million

The low voter interest in the elections was explained by most political analysts as the result of the absence from the country of Mian Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, the two most popular politicians, who were barred by law from contesting in the election The sharp increase in the number of registered voters was the result, in part, of the increase in population, and also the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18 years The Representation of the People’s Act, promulgated by the military government before the elections were held, required all candidates to hold at least a bachelor’s degree Elections to the four provincial assemblies were held on the same date Under the new political dispensation, the Punjab provincial assembly had 371 seats (66 women, 8 minorities), the Sindh assembly 168 seats (29 women, 9 minorities), the Northwest Frontier Province assembly 124 seats (22 women, 3 minorities), and the Balochistan assembly 65 seats (11 women and 3 minorities) The MMA won a clear majority in the NWFP where it formed the provincial government; it was the largest party in Balochistan after entering into a coalition with a number of small parties The PML(Q) won a majority in Punjab, while the PPP emerged as the largest party in the Sindh assembly The PML(Q) managed to keep the PPP from forming the provincial government in Sindh by entering into an alliance with the MQM The PML(Q) formed the government in Punjab By-elections to the national and the four provincial assemblies were held on 5 January 2003 The National Assembly seats, vacated by the members who had won from more than one constituency, were well contested

The PML(Q) and MMA each won three seats, the latter from a seat vacated in Rawalpindi by Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad The seat was won by the MMA’s Mohammad Hamid Abbasi The coalition of religious parties thus maintained the momentum generated in the general elections

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