Pakistan elections 2024 | Jailed ex-PM Imran Khan claims election victory as his supporters lead in polls

Nawaz Sharif appeals rival parties to join hands to form unity govt to rebuild Pakistan after he fails to win majority

February 10, 2024 02:41 am | Updated 07:27 am IST - ISLAMABAD

Pakistan’s jailed ex-PM Imran Khan won the most seats in Pakistan’s election on Feb. 9 leaving political parties trailing. File photo

Pakistan’s jailed ex-PM Imran Khan won the most seats in Pakistan’s election on Feb. 9 leaving political parties trailing. File photo | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Independents backed by jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan won the most seats in Pakistan’s election on Feb. 9 after results from over half the constituencies were announced, leaving political parties trailing.

Almost 24 hours have passed since the close of polls and the results have been unusually delayed, which the government ascribed to the suspension of mobile phone services — a security measure ahead of Thursday’s election.

According to the latest Election Commission data, results of 226 constituencies out of 265 were declared. Independent candidates (mostly supported by PTI) bagged 92 seats while PML-N got 64, Pakistan Peoples Party secured 50, Muttahida Qaumi Movement won 12 and other parties got 8 seats.

Also read: People of Pakistan to decide its future leadership: U.S.

To form a government, a party must win 133 seats out of 265 in the National Assembly. Election to one seat was postponed after the death of a candidate.

Overall, 169 seats are needed to secure a simple majority out of its total 336 seats, which include the reserved slots for women and minorities.

Imran Khan claims election victory

Meanwhile, jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan claimed victory in the country’s general election in an audio-visual message created using artificial intelligence and shared on his X social media account.

In the message, which is usually delivered by word through his lawyers, Khan rejected rival Nawaz Sharif’s earlier claim to victory. Khan called on his supporters to celebrate a win that was achieved despite what he calls a crackdown on his party.

Sharif’s fails to win majority

Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won 64 while the Pakistan Peoples Party of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated premier Benazir Bhutto, got 50.

The rest were won by small parties and other independents.

Independent members cannot form a government on their own under Pakistan’s complex election system which also includes reserved seats that will be allotted to parties based on their winnings.

But independent members have the option to join any party after the elections.

Khan is in jail and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was barred from the election, so his supporters contested as independents.

Also Read: People of Pakistan to decide its future leadership: U.S.

Analysts have predicted there may be no clear winner, adding to the woes of a country struggling to recover from an economic crisis while it grapples with rising militant violence in a deeply polarised political environment.

“A timely announcement of the results, leading to a smooth formation of a new government will reduce policy and political uncertainty,” Moody’s Investors Service said. “This is crucial for the country that is facing very challenging macroeconomic conditions.”

The delay in the announcement of results was unusual for elections in Pakistan. Karachi’s stock index and Pakistan’s sovereign bonds fell because of the uncertainty.

An “internet issue” was the reason behind the delay, Zafar Iqbal, Special Secretary at the ECP, said without elaborating.

The main electoral battle was expected to be between candidates backed by Khan, whose PTI won the last national election, and the PML-N of Sharif. Khan believes the powerful military is behind a crackdown to hound his party out of existence, while analysts and opponents say Sharif is being backed by the generals.

The military has dominated the nuclear-armed country either directly or indirectly in its 76 years of independence but for several years it has maintained it does not interfere in politics.

Sharif, considered by many observers to be a strong candidate, has dismissed talk of an unclear result but a close aide, Ishaq Dar, told GEO TV that the party could form a coalition with the support of independents.

“I am confident that we will form a government,” Mr. Dar said.

Sharif appeals rival parties to join hands to form unity govt

Mr. Sharif appeals rival parties to join hands to form unity govt to rebuild Pakistan after he fails to win majority

Mr. Sharif called for a unity government as the cash-strapped Pakistan appeared to be heading towards a hung parliament, with independent candidates backed by jailed ex-Premier Khan’s party springing a surprise by winning most of the 226 seats for which results were declared so far.

Addressing the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supporters at the party’s Central Secretariat in Lahore, 74-year-old Sharif said his party respects the mandate of all parties, including the independent candidates backed by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

IMF bailout

If the election does not result in a clear majority for anyone, as analysts are predicting, tackling multiple challenges will be tricky — foremost being seeking a new bailout programme from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after the current arrangement expires in three weeks.

A coalition government “would probably be unstable, weak” and “the big loser...will be the Army. Because the army really has staked its reputation on its ability to deliver this vote”, said Marvin Weinbaum, Director of Afghanistan and Pakistan Studies at the Middle East Institute in Washington.

The election was expected to help resolve the crises Pakistan has been dealing with but a fractured verdict “could very well be the basis for even deeper exposure to forces which would create instability”, he said.

Thousands of troops were deployed on the streets and at polling stations across the country for the voting on Thursday. Borders with Iran and Afghanistan were temporarily closed as security was stepped up.

Despite the heightened security, 28 people, including two children, were killed in 56 violent incidents including bomb blasts, grenade attacks and shootings by militants, the Interior Ministry said.

“Despite a few isolated incidents, the overall situation remained under control, demonstrating the effectiveness of our security measures,” Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz said.

Washington was concerned about “steps that were taken to restrict freedom of expression, specifically around internet and cellphone use,” State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters.

The U.S. strongly condemned election-related violence both in the run-up to the polls and on election day, Mr. Patel added.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also expressed concern about the violence and the suspension of mobile communications services, his spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement.

Amnesty International called the suspension of mobile services “a blunt attack on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly”.

(With inputs from PTI)

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