March 3, 2024


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Pakistani elections: Imran Khan's allies win most seats in shocking results

Pakistani elections: Imran Khan's allies win most seats in shocking results


Independent candidates belonging to the party of jailed Pakistani political leader Imran Khan won the largest number of National Assembly seats in Pakistan's general election, scoring a surprise victory in a vote marred by slow vote counting and allegations of fraud.

According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, independent candidates have won 98 seats so far, with 22 seats yet to be claimed. The majority of independents belong to Khan's party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), which was most likely to sweep the elections, won second place in terms of number of seats, winning 69 seats. The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) came in third place with 51 seats.

The remaining 22 seats will not be enough to give the PML-N, headed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, or the Pakistan Peoples Party the lead, even if they win all the seats. However, none of the country's three main parties will win the 169 seats needed to gain a majority in parliament and, therefore, will be unable to form a government on their own, leaving it unclear who will be chosen as the country's next prime minister. minister.

In a speech released on Friday, an artificial intelligence-generated version of Khan declared victory in the election, calling on his supporters to “show the power of protecting their votes now.”

Khan, who has been behind bars since August, uses artificial intelligence to deliver messages to his supporters. The artificial intelligence voice in the video said: “You have kept my trust, and your huge turnout has amazed everyone.”

Khan's opponent, former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, claimed that his PML-N party had received the majority share. He admitted that his party does not have “the necessary majority to form a government” and that he is looking for coalition partners.

Sharif, who once saw one of his terms end in a military coup, is one such figure By analysts Which is favored by the country's military establishment. The army previously denied supporting Sharif.

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Speaking on Saturday, Pakistan Army Chief of Staff General Syed Asim Munir said: “The nation needs stable hands and a healing touch to move from a politics of chaos and polarization that is not befitting a progressive country with a population of 250 million.”

“Pakistan’s diverse and pluralistic political system will be well represented by a unified government of all democratic forces imbued with the national goal,” Munir added.

Violent protests erupted on Friday over allegations of voter fraud and slow vote counting, amid warnings from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan that the “lack of transparency” surrounding the delay in announcing election results is “deeply worrying.”

At least two people were killed and 24 others injured in Shangla in northwestern Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province during a confrontation between workers from Khan's political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and police officers.

A police officer in Shangla told CNN that two protesters died when they were hit by stones thrown at police by their group. However, local PTI candidate Syed Fareen told CNN that they were holding a peaceful demonstration when police opened fire on the protesters, killing two workers and wounding at least two dozen others.

Analysts attribute Widespread anger and efforts by the country's interim government and its powerful army, a force that has long dominated Pakistani politics, to suppress Khan and his supporters, including through “pre-election fraud.”

Khan accused the army of orchestrating his removal from office in 2022, as thousands of his supporters took to the streets after that incident in defiance of the army. Both the army and the interim Pakistani government denied suppressing Khan or the PTI movement.

“This election was, among other things, a referendum on the dominant role of the military in Pakistani politics,” Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center think tank, told CNN. “PTI voters came out in droves to send a defiant message that they would not allow the military to dictate the outcome of an election that it desperately wanted them to lose.”

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Khan-backed candidate Meher Bano Qureshi, whose father is jailed former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, told CNN she was leading by a large margin until the Election Commission “froze” the results overnight and denied her access to the returning officer's office.

Then it was announced on Friday that she had lost in the Punjab constituency in Multan with a “historic” number of rejected votes, adding that this was “in my opinion a clear indication of fraud.”

Foreign governments have expressed concerns about interference in Pakistani elections. On Friday, the US called for an investigation into “allegations of interference or fraud” surrounding the vote, with a State Department spokesperson agreeing with assessments that the election “included unwarranted restrictions on the freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.”

But Pakistan's Foreign Ministry responded on Saturday, saying criticism from abroad “ignores the undeniable fact that Pakistan held general elections peacefully and successfully.”

She added that these comments “do not take into account the complexity of the electoral process, nor do they acknowledge the free and enthusiastic exercise of the right to vote by tens of millions of Pakistanis,” describing these concerns as “misplaced.”

Thursday's vote, which has already been postponed for several months, comes as the country of 220 million faces mounting challenges. Economic uncertainty And Frequent armed attacks Climate disasters that put the most vulnerable groups at risk.

Banaras Khan/AFP/Getty Images

Poll workers open ballot boxes in the presence of polling agents from various political parties during the start of vote counting in Quetta, Pakistan, on February 8, 2024.

Former cricket star KhanHe remains, 71 years old, ousted from power in a storm of controversy Prisoners on multiple convictions He was prevented from running in the elections against his rivals. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has been banned from using its famous cricket bat symbol on ballot papers, a major blow to millions of illiterate people who might use it to cast their votes, and television stations have been banned from broadcasting Khan's speeches.

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His old rival, 74-year-old Sharif, a scion of the elite Sharif political family, is seeking to make what could be a remarkable political comeback after years of self-imposed exile abroad after he took office. Sentenced to prison on corruption charges.

Even if the PTI wins after the vote count is completed, retaining power in a new government could be difficult.

Court rulings leading up to the elections forced the party's candidates to run as independents. “This means that PTI has to worry that some of the candidates it sponsors could ally with other parties. The military will likely pressure them to do so,” Kugelman said.

Kugelman added that Sharif's PML-N may also be able to form a coalition with other parties and shut down the PTI.

If Sharif's party forms the new government, he will become prime minister for a historic fourth term. Taking a conciliatory tone on Friday, he said that “all parties must sit together to heal the wounded Pakistan.”

He also stated that his party respects the mandate of all parties, “including independents,” referring to candidates from the party of jailed former Prime Minister Khan, who were unable to run under their party name.

Sharif stressed that his party “does not want to fight” because “Pakistan cannot tolerate conflict.” He also said that his party “wants to improve relations” with Pakistan's neighbours.

Also among the candidates is Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 35-year-old son of slain former leader Benazir Bhutto, who hopes to re-establish his Pakistan People's Party as a major political force.