Pakistan Army chief backs Nawaz Sharif’s call to form coalition government

Independents backed by jailed former PM Imran Khan’s party won the lion’s share of 100 seats in the National Assembly as the result of 255 seats out of 265 was announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan

February 10, 2024 11:32 pm | Updated February 11, 2024 07:35 am IST - Islamabad/Lahore

Supporters of Pakistan’s imprisoned former PM Imran Khan and Jamaat-e-Islami party chant slogans during a protest against the delaying result of parliamentary election by Pakistan Election Commission, in Karachi, Pakistan, on February 10, 2024.

Supporters of Pakistan’s imprisoned former PM Imran Khan and Jamaat-e-Islami party chant slogans during a protest against the delaying result of parliamentary election by Pakistan Election Commission, in Karachi, Pakistan, on February 10, 2024. | Photo Credit: AP

Pakistan’s Army chief Gen. Asim Munir on Saturday urged the country’s polarised political leadership to form a “unified government of all democratic forces”, as he backed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s plea to his rivals to help form a coalition government after the general elections appear to have produced a hung Parliament.

Springing a surprise, independents backed by jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party won the lion’s share of 100 seats in the National Assembly in Thursday’s election, as the result of 255 seats out of 265 was announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan. Mr. Khan’s party has already claimed victory in the elections.

The group was followed by Mr. Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) with 73 seats, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) with 54, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) with 17 and smaller parties taking 11.

To form a government, a party must win 133 seats out of 265 in the National Assembly.

On Saturday, a statement attributed to Gen. Munir said, “Pakistan’s diverse polity and pluralism will be well-represented by a unified government of all democratic forces imbibed with national purpose.”

The Army, which has ruled coup-prone Pakistan for more than half of its 75-plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in matters of security and foreign policy. “The nation needs stable hands and a healing touch to move on from the politics of anarchy and polarisation, which does not suit a progressive country of 250 million people. Elections are not a zero-sum competition of winning and losing but an exercise to determine the mandate of the people,” it said.

The Army chief noted that the people of Pakistan reposed their combined trust in the Constitution of Pakistan and it was now “incumbent upon all political parties to reciprocate the same with political maturity and unity.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Khan, 71, in an AI-generated audio-video message on Saturday, claimed victory in the general elections. He thanked the people for voting for the PTI and also asked them to ensure the sanctity of their votes was not hijacked by the establishment.

Also Read | “London Plan failed”: Imran Khan claims victory in AI-enabled speech

PTI Central Information Secretary Raoof Hasan said any attempt to derail the people’s decision would have “deadly consequences”, adding that power-wielders must learn to respect the people’s choice.

Meanwhile, an anti-terrorism court on Saturday granted bail to Mr. Khan in 12 cases linked to the May 9 attacks on military installations by his supporters following his arrest in an alleged corruption case. Mr. Khan will remain in jail as he is convicted in many other cases.

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