Khan's party wins second most votes in Pakistan poll

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - The party of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan won the second largest number of votes in Pakistan's general election, data released on Monday showed, despite finishing third in terms of seats.

Mr Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party polled 7.7 million votes in the May 11 election to win 28 national assembly seats, but the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) which led the outgoing government took 32 seats with only 6.9 million ballots.

Turnout at the election, which marked the first time a civilian government had completed a five-year term and handed over power at the ballot box, was 55 per cent, the election commission said - up from 44 per cent in the 2008 poll.

In total, 46.2 million people voted compared with 36.6 million five years ago, despite Taliban threats to attack polling stations on election day.

Both PTI and PPP were well behind the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) led by two-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, which took 126 seats and 14.9 million votes, according to the commission.

PML-N officials say they have persuaded 18 independent lawmakers to join the party, taking them comfortably beyond the 136 seats they need to be sure of a majority in the lower house.

In Pakistan's National Assembly, 272 seats are elected directly. A further 70 seats reserved for women and minorities are distributed to parties according to the proportion of general seats they win.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso has sent a note to President Asif Ali Zardari asking him to convene the National Assembly on Saturday for the swearing-in of new lawmakers, the PM's press secretary Shafqat Jalil said.

Results are still awaited from seven seats where polling was delayed due to violence or where recounts were ordered after allegations of irregularities.