Results from Pakistan's general election indicate that no single party is likely to gain a clear majority in the new National Assembly.
The Election Commission has declared the results of 197 seats so far out of 272 at stake. The rest of the seats in the 342-member legislature are set aside for women and minority communities.
A newly formed pro-military government party (Pakistan Muslim League-Q) is leading with 61 seats, followed by the Pakistan People's Party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto which has captured 47 seats.
A coalition of Islamic fundamentalist parties (Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal) has won 40 seats, a huge gain compared to only three seats held by religious parties in the last assembly.
Independent candidates have won a total of 32 seats, with smaller parties taking 17 seats.
Ms. Bhutto made a statement from London, alleging that votes were rigged and her party was cheated out of an outright victory. A reporter for VOA in Islamabad says the independents are expected to play a crucial role in forming a government. He says according to an ordinance passed by President Pervez Musharraf on the eve of the election, the independents must join a political party of their choice by Monday.
Thursday's balloting for the National Assembly and four provincial legislatures was the first general election in Pakistan since General Pervez Musharraf seized power in a bloodless military coup in 1999.
Commonwealth election observers said the balloting was "for the most part, transparent." But the observers expressed concern about what they called widespread allegations that the military government allowed the use of its resources to favor certain parties.
Some Pakistani and international human-rights groups have accused President Musharraf of manipulating the electoral process to ensure the military's dominant role in governing the country.
General Musharraf denies the charge. He says that although he will remain president of Pakistan, the new prime minister will run the day-to-day affairs of government.
A new prime minister is expected to take the oath of office in early November.