Ousted Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto urged her party leaders Thursday not to "hand over the country to the worshipers of dictatorship," who she said had rigged the general elections, but she agreed to take part in upcoming provincial polls.
Caretaker Prime Minister Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, meanwhile, called on Bhutto to accept her party's election loss and warned if she or anyone else tried to disrupt Saturday's provincial elections, they would be "dealt with severely."Jatoi spoke to reporters after his Islamic Democratic Alliance won 105 seats in the new 217-member National Assembly in Wednesday's elections, giving it the ability to form a government.
Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party won 45 races, while smaller parties, most of them allied to the IDA, had 31 and independents 21. A further 10 seats are reserved for religious minorities, and polling in one constituency was postponed.
The IDA is to elect a leader, who must then seek a vote of confidence from the National Assembly within 30 days to become prime minister. The two main candidates are Jatoi and Nawaz Sharif, a former chief minister of Punjab Province and Bhutto's main foe during her term of office.
Bhutto, the 37-year-old daughter of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, accused her opponents of "gross rigging" to achieve their unexpected and decisive victory.
Six international teams are in Pakistan to observe the parliamentary elections and the provincial assembly polls, including a 40-member delegation from the National Democratic Institute, based in the United States. The NDI is to issue a report Friday on the general elections.
A PPP spokesman said the party had decided to take part in Saturday's provincial elections "so as to know by what means the caretaker government has used and might use to rig the polls."