© Reuters. Supporters of former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), join a protest demanding free and fair results of the election in Peshawar, Pakistan, on February 10, 2024. Reuters/Fayaz Aziz
By Areeba Shahid and Charlotte Greenfield
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – A candidate backed by jailed Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan’s party is planning to form a government, a senior aide to the former prime minister said on Saturday, urging supporters to protest peacefully if final election results are not released. requested.
The South Asian nation of 241 million people voted in general elections on Thursday, as the country struggles to overcome an economic crisis and grapple with terrorist violence in a deeply polarized political environment.
Both Khan and his main rival, three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, declared victory on Friday, increasing uncertainty over who will form the next government at a time when quick policy action is needed to address multiple challenges. Is.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-Insaf (PTI) party chairman Gauhar Khan, who also serves as the former prime minister’s lawyer, called on “all institutions” in Pakistan to respect his party’s mandate.
At a press conference, he said that if the full election results were not released by Saturday night, the party would hold peaceful protests outside government offices returning election results across the country on Sunday.
Sharif on Friday said his party has emerged as the largest group and will talk to other groups to form a coalition government.
As of 5pm on Saturday (12:00 GMT), results for 10 of the 265 seats contested were still not in – more than 48 hours after polls closed.
The latest data posted on the Election Commission website shows independent candidates have won 100 seats, while Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has won 72 seats.
Reuters analysis showed that at least 90 of the victorious independent candidates had the support of Khan and his party – putting them well ahead of Sharif’s party.
Khan’s supporters were contesting the elections as independents as the Election Commission had barred them from the elections for not following electoral laws.
Despite the ban and Khan’s conviction on charges ranging from leaking state secrets to corruption and illegal marriage, millions of the former cricketer’s supporters came out to vote for him.
However, under Pakistan’s electoral laws, independent candidates are not eligible to be allotted reserved seats, 70 of which are to be distributed according to party strength. Sharif’s party can get up to 20 of these seats.
Zulfi Bukhari, a close aide and media advisor to Khan, told Reuters that the party would announce within the party banner the next day that they would ask independent candidates to join. In Pakistan, independent candidates cannot form a government on their own and are required to join a party.
“And we have no fear of independent people going anywhere, because these are the people who have fought for the last 18 months and endured all kinds of torture and oppression,” Bukhari told Reuters in a WhatsApp voice message.
Whoever wants to form the next government will need the support of other parties, with none coming close to the seat threshold for a simple majority in parliament.
Apart from Khan and Sharif, the Pakistan People’s Party of late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari remains a major player with at least 53 seats.
The remaining seats were won by smaller parties and other independent candidates. This will trigger a period of intense political negotiations over the next few days ahead of the parliamentary vote to elect a new prime minister and government.
Pakistan’s army chief on Saturday congratulated the country for the “successful conduct” of elections and said the country needed “steady hands” to move beyond the politics of “anarchy and polarisation”.
The army remains the most powerful institution in the country and has played a major role in making and breaking governments for decades. Khan accused the army of cracking down on him and his party. The army denies this.
From jail, Khan released an audio-visual message generated by artificial intelligence, rather than having the statement read out by his lawyers as is usually the case, in which he rejected Sharif’s claim to victory.
In a message posted on social media platform told.
The United States, Britain and the European Union on Friday expressed concerns about the electoral process and urged an investigation into alleged irregularities.
British Foreign Secretary David Cameron cited “serious concerns” over the “lack of fairness and inclusivity of the elections”.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office responded to the comments on Saturday, saying they ignored the “undisputed fact” that the election was successfully conducted.
“We are hopeful that the process will be conducted effectively and that it will reflect the will of the people,” said former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is leading the Commonwealth team to observe the vote.
Jonathan called on those with complaints about the election to raise them in accordance with the laws of Pakistan.
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