Imran Khan's party to sit in Opposition in Pakistan's Parliament; to protest against poll rigging

The major political parties in Pakistan have stepped up efforts to form a federal government after the February 8 elections delivered a split verdict.

February 17, 2024 11:32 am | Updated 12:54 pm IST - Islamabad

Imran Khan. File

Imran Khan. File | Photo Credit: AP

Jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has decided to sit in the Opposition in Parliament while launching a countrywide protest against alleged rigging in the elections after its efforts to form the next government failed.

The major political parties in Pakistan have stepped up efforts to form a federal government after the February 8 elections delivered a split verdict.

While Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party-backed independent candidates dominated the election results, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) claimed to have enough numbers to form the government as some independents joined the Nawaz Sharif-led party post-polls.

PTI leader Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif announced on February 16 that following the instructions of PTI founder Khan, the party has decided to sit in the Opposition both at the Centre and in the key province of Punjab.

The decision came a day after the party had named Umar Ayub Khan as its candidate for the Prime Minister and Aslam Iqbal as Chief Minister for Punjab.

Talking to the media on Friday night [February 16] after visiting the Qaumi Watan Party in Islamabad, Mr. Saif said that the party decided to sit in the Opposition in the Centre and Punjab under the instructions of party founder Khan.

“We decided to sit in Opposition despite the reality that if we received seats according to our votes and the results were not changed then maybe today we might have been in the Centre with 180 seats. We have the evidence that our candidates won,” he said.

The party, which also issued a white paper against alleged rigging on Friday, has decided to kick off its demonstrations from February 17.

A PTI source said that the party’s incarcerated founder has tasked former National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser with engaging political parties to muster support for the protest drive.

A PTI delegation led by Mr. Qaisar met the leader of Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) on Friday, while a meeting with Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party’s Mehmood Khan Achakzai is scheduled to take place on Saturday.

Mr. Qaiser-led delegation also met Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) leader Mian Muhammad Aslam and discussed the post-election scenario. The delegation sought JI’s support for joint protests against the alleged rigging.

It was not clear if the party would participate in the election of the Prime Minister and Punjab Chief Minister after the decision to join the Opposition ranks.

Khan's party claimed that at least 85 seats won by it in Parliament were snatched in the "biggest voter fraud" in the country's history and announced plans to hold "peaceful" nationwide protests on Saturday against alleged rigging.

PTI’s core committee met on Friday and finalised the plans for the nationwide protest campaign on the call of the party’s founder Khan.

The meeting urged the whole nation to come out of their houses against the “massive rigging”. The meeting also sought the resignation of the Chief Election Commissioner.

Independent candidates — a majority backed by Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) — won 93 of the 265 National Assembly seats that were contested in the February 8 election.

However, PTI's two main rivals appear on course to form a coalition government after former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) formed a post-poll alliance on Tuesday.

The PML-N won 75 seats while the PPP came third with 54 seats. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) has also agreed to support them with their 17 seats. To form a government, a party must win 133 seats out of 265 contested seats in the 266-member National Assembly. Khan declared on Friday will not seek political vengeance upon returning to power.

"We will not take any political revenge, but we will take the country and the nation forward for the sake of the development of the country and the nation," he stated, as conveyed by PTI leader Ali Muhammad Khan following a 30-minute long meeting with Imran Khan at Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail.

PTI's Information Secretary Raoof Hasan and other leaders including Sher Afzal Marwat, Rehana Dar, Shoaib Shaheen and Salman Akram Raja, who challenged their election results before various forums, addressed a press conference in Islamabad.

Mr. Hasan said that 2024 would be remembered due to the “biggest voter fraud” in Pakistan’s history against the party and its candidates.

“According to our estimates, out of 177 [National Assembly] seats which were supposed to be ours, only 92 have been given to us. And 85 seats have been taken away from us fraudulently,” he said.

Editorial | Pakistan in turmoil: On the Pakistan elections and results 

He said that the party was taking constitutional and legal steps to counter the rigging and get its right. “We have verified data about 46 seats and it is being compiled for 39 seats,” he said.

Mr. Hasan also highlighted the discrepancies between Form 45 and Form 47, which respectively deal with counting in each polling station in a constituency and the overall count of all polling stations.

Mr. Hasan claimed there was a huge difference in the numbers of votes polled for National Assembly and provincial assembly seats. He said that the number of rejected votes, in certain cases, exceeded the margin of victory.

Separately, Mr. Hasan affirmed the party's readiness for dialogue with the establishment, emphasising that the purpose of contacting political parties is not to form an electoral alliance but to bring all political forces together on a unified platform.

Speaking on the Express Tribune newspaper, Mr. Hasan highlighted that PTI's founder has consistently advocated for engaging with all political parties. He emphasised that if political parties engage in positive politics, there is no harm in holding meetings and fostering collaboration.

"The purpose of contacting political parties is not at all an electoral alliance; our aim is that all political parties come together on one platform," stated Mr. Hasan during the programme.

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