Islamabad/Lahore: Nawaz Sharif is set for a third term as Pakistan's Prime Minister as his PML-N party took a massive lead over its rivals in early poll results, making a remarkable comeback from being toppled in a military coup and sent into exile.
Official results were emerging slowly early on Sunday morning but TV projections suggested no single party would win a simple majority of 172 seats in the 342-member National Assembly.
Sharif's centre-right Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) was leading the race with 126 seats and Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had 34. Pakistan People's Party with just 32 seats so far had a poor showing in the polls, Geo TV reported.
The PML-N was most likely to return 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.
Addressing a group of jubilant supporters at his home in Lahore, Sharif proclaimed victory late on Saturday night for the PML-N and asked people to pray that the final results 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".