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Pakistani commuters ride past closed shops at a shuttered market during a strike in Lahore yesterday. The traders' community has announced three-day complete strike over a court's decision to disqualify the Pakistan Muslim League-N Quaid Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif from contesting by-elections.Photo: AFP

Former Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif pledged yesterday after his party won the most seats in by-elections that he would keep pushing for the restoration of judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf.

The polls on Thursday were for five parliamentary constituencies and 23 provincial assembly seats left empty following general elections in February in which a coalition including Sharif's party trounced Musharraf's allies.

Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won three of the seats in the national assembly while the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of slain ex-premier Benazir Bhutto, the senior partner in the coalition, took the other two, official results showed.

PML-N also won eight of the 23 provincial assembly seats that went to polls, while slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's PPP romped home in seven.

Another coalition partner, the ethnic Pashtun Awami National Party, got two seats and independents six.

The elections were mostly peaceful thanks to tight security at polling station but several people were wounded in clashes in one constituency on Thursday.

The turnout was low and polling was marred by sporadic incidents of violence, especially in Punjab province.

More than 20 people were injured in clashes between rival groups of political workers, who fired in the air at several places.

Women were not allowed to vote in Mardan in the North West Frontier Province, while an assistant presiding officer was reportedly kidnapped by Pakistan People's Party activists.

According to unofficial results provided by the Election Commission, the PML-N won the three seats in the National Assembly or lower house of parliament from Punjab province, including two in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

PML-N chief Sharif's son-in-law Capt (retired) Muhammad Safdar bagged a seat in Rawalpindi.

Polling was postponed for a sixth parliamentary seat in the eastern city of Lahore because of legal wrangling over whether Sharif was eligible to contest.

The PPP bagged two National Assembly seats, one in Mardan and another at Okara in Punjab.

Of the 23 provincial assembly seats, the PML-N won eight, the PPP seven and the Awami National Party two while independent candidates bagged six seats.

The coalition has been threatened by a rift between the two parties over the failure to honour a vow to reinstate the chief justice and dozens of other judges fired by Musharraf under emergency rule last November.

"We are grateful to God and to the people who voted for our party members for our victory in the by-elections," Sharif told reporters while speaking after the funeral of a politician in northwest Pakistan.

"We will continue to struggle for the restoration of the judges," Sharif said.

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