ISLAMABAD - Ruling PML-N swept to victory by grabbing 67 seats in local government elections held in 42 cantonments across the country on Saturday, according to unofficial results from all the 199 wards of the cantonment areas.

Independent candidates also pocketed a significant 55 seats, followed PML-N’s major challenger - Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) - which secured 43 slots. Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) also performed well by getting 19 seats, in contrast to disappointing performance of Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarians (PPPP) that could fetch only 7 slots, that too only in Sindh cantonments.

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), a coalition partner of PTI in KP, secured 5 seats while Awami National Party (ANP) bagged two seats in Peshawar cantonment. Results showed that PML-N that had lost seven seats to its arch rival PTI in Rawalpindi during 2013 general elections, made a comeback in cantonment polls by reclaiming 19 out of 20 seats in the garrison city. One seat went to JI.

Voting began at 8am amid strict security. A total of 1,151 candidates contested in the election in 199 wards of 42 cantonment boards on party basis, after a gap of 17 years. According to Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), as many as 10,000 polling staff performed duty at 1,125 polling stations.

ECP would announce the list of winning candidates after collecting the consolidated report from Returning Officers (ROs). According to the commission, candidates to women and reserved seats will be elected by the elected councilors for a term of four years.

Overall law and order situation remained satisfactory, though hundreds of polling stations had been declared sensitive by election authorities. According to eye witnesses, supporters of successful candidates resorted to aerial firing in Rawalpindi for celebrating their victories.

In Dheri Hassanabad area of Rawalpindi, polling was halted for a moment on ward No. 8 owing to no mention of names of voters; however, the exercise was resumed after election authorities asked the voters to produce their old national identity card numbers (CNICs).

PML-N politicians including Railways Minister Saad Rafiq and Maryam Nawaz Sharif rejoiced the triumph of their party in the polls, mocking their rival PTI for failing to match them in Punjab and in other areas where Imran Khan had been trumpeting rigging in last year’s general elections.

According to election observers, the election in cantonment areas was a scale that can gauge the fate of success of political parties in the upcoming local bodies’ polls in the country. “The poll in cantonments was a warm-up for the upcoming LB polls. We can estimate which political party has more chances of victory in next elections,” an official of Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) told The Nation.