Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party has suffered a setback in special parliamentary elections in the populous Punjab province although it gained ground in two other provinces.

The results did not alter the balance of power in the National Assembly, where the PPP won the most seats in a general election which returned Pakistan to democracy last November although it fell short of an overall majority.Most of Saturday's by-elections were held in Punjab where the PPP's main rival, the Islamic Democratic Alliance, is already in power.

The PPP and its allies took six National Assembly seats. The PPP had already won unopposed one of the two seats up for contest in Karachi. It also won an additional national seat in the North West Frontier and one in Baluchistan province

But it won only two of nine seats contested in Punjab.

The IDA took the other seven seats, and its leader Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi was elected with a big majority in a sprawling rural Punjab constituency

Jatoi, a feudal landlord, had suffered an embarrassing defeat in his home province of Sind in November.

Most of the contests for 13 National Assembly and seven provincial legislature seats, for which three million people were eligible to vote, were straight fights between the PPP and the IDA.