After three years of military rule, Pakistan again headed towards democracy on October 10, 2002. More than 70 parties, big and small, contested the eighth national parliamentary election. The major parties contesting the elections were Peoples Party Parliamentarians, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Group, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-i-Azam also called the “King’s Party” for its unconditional support to the government, and the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), alliance of six religious political parties. Other known parties contesting at the national level included the six-party National Alliance led by former caretaker Prime Minister Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf and Tahir-ul-Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehrik. Several regional parties, with strongholds in their own provinces included the Sindh-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Awami National Party, Jamhuri Watan Party, factions of Baluchistan National Movement and Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party.
The National and Provincial elections were held on the same day. More than 72 million registered voters aged 18 and above from a population of 140 million, elected members for the 342 National Assembly seats and 728 seats of the four Provincial Assemblies. A total of 2,098 candidates contested for 272 general seats of the National Assembly. The remaining 60 seats were reserved for women and 10 for non-Muslim minorities. These seats were to be allocated on the basis of proportional representation to parties bagging at least five per cent of the total general seats. In the Provincial Assemblies out of the full 371 seat Punjab Assembly, 66 were reserved for women and eight for minorities, in the 168 seat Sindh Assembly, 29 for women and nine for minorities, in the 124 seat N. W. F. P. Assembly, 22 for women and three for minorities, and the 65 seat Baluchistan Assembly, 11 for women and three for minorities.
Voting was carried out from 8 in the morning till 5 in the evening on some 65,000 polling stations having 164,718