Islamabad, Feb 19 : The crushing defeat of President Pervez Musharraf in parliamentary elections on February 18 shows that people have rejected his policies since 2001 and those of his close ally, the United States, the New York Times (NYT) has said.
All the prominent leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, the party that has governed for the last five years under Musharraf, lost their seats, including the leader of the party and former Prime Minister Shujaat Hussain, the former speaker of Parliament and six ministers.
Official results are expected on Tuesday, but early returns indicated that the vote would usher in a Prime Minister from one of the opposition parties, and opened the prospect of a Parliament that would move to undo many of Musharraf's policies and even try to remove him, the NYT preidcted.
Early results showed equal gains for Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party, and the Pakistan Muslim League-N, the faction led by Nawaz Sharif. Each party may be in a position to form the next government, the paper said.
The results were interpreted here as a repudiation of Musharraf as well as the Bush Administration, which has staunchly backed him for more than six years as its best bet in the campaign against the Islamic militants in Pakistan.
The PML-Q workers said that the vote was a protest against government policies and the rise in terrorism here, in particular against Musharraf's heavy-handed way of dealing with militancy and his use of the army against tribesmen in the border areas.
The NYT quoted others as saying that Musharraf's dismissal last year of the Supreme Court Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who remains under house arrest, was deeply unpopular with the voters.
By early Monday night, crowds of Sharif supporters had already begun celebrating as they paraded through the streets of Rawalpindi.
From unofficial results the private news channel, Aaj Television, forecast that the Pakistan Peoples Party would win 110 seats in the 272-seat National Assembly, with Sharif's party taking 100 seats.
Official results were not expected until Tuesday morning, but all the parties were already coming to terms with the anti-Musharraf trend in the voting.