Pakistan's ruling party has secured most seats in the upper house of parliament, which will probably ease pressure on the country's beleaguered president Asif Ali Zardari.
Pakistan's regional lawmakers cast their votes on Thursday to choose members of the Senate, an indirectly-elected upper house of Pakistani parliament.
The Pakistani media says the votes are still being counted. However, according to the unofficial results, the ruling PPP (Pakistan People's Party), led by President Asif Ali Zardari, is leading the race.
Ruling PPP bags most seats
Shakoor Rahim, Deutsche Welle's correspondent in Islamabad, reports that the PPP has bagged 15 seats out of 45 that were contested on Thursday.
Each of Pakistan's four provinces has 23 seats in the 104-member senate, with four for the capital city of Islamabad and eight for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA. Some seats are reserved for the minorities, women, Islamic scholars and technocrats. Elections are held on half of the senate seats every three years.
Pakistan's opposition parties have blamed the PPP of bribing lawmakers to elect their candidates.
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Shah, leader of the opposition in the lower house of parliament, told Deutsche Welle on Thursday that Pakistan's biggest problem was corruption and corrupt politicians, eluding to President Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. "What could be the future of a country where parliament seats are sold?" asked Shah, whose Pakistan Muslim League of the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has won seven seats in the senate.
A relief for President Zardari
Corruption allegations against Pakistan's civilian government are not new. The Supreme Court of Pakistan is already hearing high-profile corruption cases against Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari. The court recently charged the prime minister with contempt for refusing to write a letter to Swiss authorities, requesting they re-open graft cases against President Zardari, which were shelved in 2008. The incumbent PPP government says the cases are ''politically motivated" and cannot be re-opened while Zardari remains head of state, as he enjoys presidential immunity.
The government is also facing an unfolding scandal known as "memogate" revolving around a letter written to the US government with the request to rein in the Pakistani army and its generals to prevent a possible coup following the assassination of Osama bin Laden in May last year. President Zardari and his government deny any involvement in the scandal, which opposition parties claim undermines Pakistan's security and national sovereignty. The Pakistani courts are currently investigating this alleged "act of treason."
Political commentators say President Zardari can heave a sigh of relief after his party's good performance in senate elections as it will allow him to pass legislation easily and will give him an upper hand in Pakistani politics for at least three more years, even if his party does not perform well in the general elections due in early 2013.
Author: Shamil Shams
Editor: Sarah Berning