The party of former cricket star Imran Khan claimed victory in Pakistan's election, boosting stocks as investors bet he'd be able to form a stable government that could address the nation's financial woes after a vote tarred by rigging allegations.
"Outspoken cricketer-turned-politician" Khan is seeking to lead Pakistan, having "appealed to the masses, especially the younger generation", with promises of "rooting out corruption" to create a "new Pakistan", says Al Jazeera.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the party of jailed ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, has called the count an "assault on democracy" in a country which has a history of military rule. The results had been expected by 2 a.m. local time.
The Pakistani Army deployed 371,388 troops at all the polling stations to assist around 450,000 personnel from the police and other law enforcement agencies.
Analysts believe the two parties are not in a position to cause a major upset against PML-N and PTI but they can still damage the vote bank of the two key parties in several constituencies in Punjab, and of the MMA in KP and Karachi.
The vote counting has faced a plethora of delays as well as accusations of vote rigging. "The way the people's mandate has blatantly been insulted, it is intolerable", Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president and Sharif's brother Shahbaz, told a news conference as the counting continued.
Former chairman of the senate termed the delay in the release of ECP's official election results as "suspicious" and stated: "I do not agree with Election Commission's stand about the new system working".
In a victory speech, Mr Khan acknowledged that fixing the economy was the "greatest challenge" and he would implement wide-ranging reforms.
During the count, outgoing PML-N Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir-Khan tweeted that official result forms were not given at hundreds of polling stations, decrying what he called "blatant, callous, shameless rigging".
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As voting got underway on Wednesday in the southwestern city of Quetta, the Baluchistan provincial capital, militants sent a suicide bomber to a crowding polling station to carry out a deadly attack that killed 31 people.
Pakistanis started casting votes in the country's one-day general elections commenced on Wednesday morning, which would elect the members of the National Assembly, the lower house of the country's parliament, and of the four provincial assemblies.
Yet there have been widespread concerns during the election campaign about manipulation by the military, which has directly or indirectly ruled Pakistan for most of its existence.
Nawaz Sharif was disqualified from public office by the Supreme Court previous year, after hearings on charges of financial misdeeds that were pushed by Khan and others.
If Mr Khan fails to secure an outright majority, he is likely to form a coalition with Benazir Bhutto, 29, and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP).
An unofficial tally from Dawn newspaper on Thursday night showed the PTI leading in 120 seats, shy of the 137 needed to clinch a majority, though only 49 per cent of the vote has been counted.
In a tweet, she recalled how Khan, who had retired from cricket after winning the 1992 world cup, took a plunge into politics in 1996 and launched the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief. The Islamic State (IS) extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Till filing of this report, the PTI was leading on 27 seats, the MMA, ANP and PML-N on two seats each, the PPP on one seat, whereas two independent candidates were also leading.
Results will trickle in after polling ends, with the outcome expected early Thursday, according to election officials.