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Pakistan Is Stunned as Early Election Results Look Like a Real Race

Pakistani voters on Friday were anxiously awaiting the final results of a national election that has stunned many in the country by denying Pakistan’s powerful military a widely expected landslide victory for its preferred party.

That party, led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, remained the front-runner as preliminary totals trickled in a day after the voting. But the prolonged uncertainty made clear that the military, long the guiding hand in Pakistani politics, had failed in its heavy-handed effort to gut a rival party affiliated with another former prime minister, Imran Khan.

In Punjab, the country’s most populous province, which accounts for more than half of the seats in Parliament, many candidates in Mr. Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or P.M.L.N., were neck and neck with those in the party of Mr. Khan, a popular figure who has been jailed for months.

The tight races may constitute as close to an upset as possible in a country where the military is the ultimate authority. They reflected the deep, loyal base of support that Mr. Khan has cultivated since he was ousted by Parliament in 2022, as well as his unique ability to outmaneuver the military’s playbook for sidelining politicians who have fallen out of its favor.

While Pakistan’s election commission had initially said that the results would be released early Friday morning, by noon officials had announced totals for only around 60 of the 266 seats in the National Assembly, or lower house of Parliament.

The Interior Ministry attributed the delay to a “lack of connectivity” related to security precautions. But leaders and supporters of Mr. Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or P.T.I., expressed concerns that the delay could be a sign