Pakistan opposition seen gaining more seats than expected

Vote counting for Pakistan's general election is underway. Attention is focused on whether the ruling party led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will hold on to power. But some local media say the opposition, led by another ex-premier, Imran Khan, is gaining more seats than expected.

Khan, a former cricket star, was barred from standing in the election as he is in jail on corruption and other charges. Members of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI, were only allowed to run as independents.

Experts say the rulings against Khan just before the election were seen as vindictive and have drawn sympathy votes for candidates backed by him.

A total of 265 seats in parliament were contested in Thursday's election.

Preliminary results from the Election Commission give independents who are mostly PTI supporters 51 seats, and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, or PML-N, 39.

The question is whether Sharif and his PML-N will be returned to power. The three-time prime minister is seen as enjoying good relations with the military, which has a strong influence on politics.

Former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, a member of PML-N, is confident his party will form a government. He called the media reports saying the PTI is gaining momentum "misleading."

Vote counting is expected to finish in a couple of days.

Whatever the result, the next government will face chronic economic challenges, including high inflation and high unemployment.