by RAY FLEMING
The clearest indication that Pakistan's elections were free and fair is that President Musharraf's party was decimated and twenty-three of his ministers lost their seats. That would not have happened if any serious vote-rigging had taken place. Another remarkable outcome was the rebuff that voters delivered to the Islamist parties. The winners were Benazir Bhutto's party, now led by her husband Asif Ali Zardawi, with 87 seats and the party of the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif with 67 seats. The only major disappointment about the elections was the very low turnout -- about 35 per cent of the 81 million registered voters, but this can be explained partly by the electorate's understandable nervousness about the risk of violence at voting stations. Although President Musharraf deserves some credit for ensuring that the elections were fair and largely trouble-free, he is unlikely to be given very much by the people of Pakistan. Indeed, he may prove to be principal victim of the elections if a strong coalition is formed with the purpose of forcing his resignation on the grounds that his re-election last year was not constitutional. Pakistan has so many urgent problems to solve that it is to be hoped the politicians will not waste time on legal issues, even if they have scores of that kind to settle. The inexperienced Asif Ali Zardawi, who took little part in the affairs of the Pakistan People's Party before his wife was killed, has a heavy responsibility in leading the largest party.