Finally, Zardari congratulates Sharif on poll win

Addressing a meeting of newly elected PML-N lawmakers in Lahore, Sharif said Zardari had not yet congratulated him on the success of the party.

Islamabad: Hours after Pakistan`s Prime Minister-designate Nawaz Sharif complained that Asif Ali Zardari had not yet congratulated him on his victory in Pakistan`s General Elections, the President set things right by telephoning the PML-N chief.

Addressing a meeting of newly elected PML-N lawmakers in Lahore, Sharif said Zardari had not yet congratulated him on the success of the party.

Soon after, Zardari telephoned Sharif and felicitated him on his victory in the May 11 General Elections, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

Media reports quoted sources close to Sharif as saying that the PML-N chief asked Zardari what had taken him so long to offer the congratulations.

Sharif also thanked Zardari for his gesture.

The PML-N has attained a simple majority in the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament, setting up an unprecedented third term as premier for Sharif.

Zardari`s Pakistan Peoples Party, which led the previous government, was routed in the polls.

Zardari also telephoned Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Awami National Party head Asfandyar Wali, the presidential spokesman said.

The President felicitated the people and all political parties for participating in the elections, paving the way for the first democratic transition in the country`s history.

Babar quoted Zardari as saying that the polls followed by the smooth transfer of power in the coming days "will be remembered as a watershed mark in our political evolution and a triumph of the democratic ethos of the people and the political parties".

Zardari blames international forces

Meanwhile, Zardari yesterday blamed national and international forces for his Pakistan Peoples Party defeat in the May 11 polls while the party`s losing candidates held former premiers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf responsible for the debacle.

In a meeting with PPP ticket-holders of Punjab province at his private residence here, Zardari claimed some "international forces" did not want the party to come to power again.

"These forces were not happy with the (outgoing) PPP government`s agreements with the countries in the region," he said.

PPP leaders believe that the US was not happy over the previous government`s agreements for a gas pipeline and the management of Gwadar Port with Iran and China, respectively.

Zardari said the mandate of the PPP had been "stolen" but it would play an effective role at the centre as an opposition party.

He said he would actively participate in politics after completing his tenure as President in September.

The losing PPP candidates spoke out against former premiers Gilani and Ashraf and former Interior Minister Rehman Malik, saying they had caused irreparable harm to the party.

"The poor governance of Gilani and the mishandling of the energy crisis by Ashraf cost us dearly in the May 11 polls," a PPP candidate, who lost in central Punjab, said.

Another PPP activist, who did not want to be named, criticised the party`s decision of "wasting" about Rs 300 billion on the Benazir Income Support Programme instead of addressing the energy crisis by clearing a circular debt of Rs 400 billion.