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Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Pakistan’s Khan-backed independents lead in final poll count

Khan — who is currently in prison — and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party were blocked from running in the election, so the supporters of Khan had to run as independents.

Independent candidates linked to former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan won the most seats in the country’s national election, a final tally by the election commission showed Sunday.

Khan-backing independents won 101 of the 264 seats, while the party of another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, won 75 seats. The Pakistan’s People’s Party (PPP) which backed ex-Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari came third with 54 seats. Eleven other parties received a total of 34 seats in the National Assembly.

Khan — who is currently in prison — and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party were blocked from running in the election, so the supporters of Khan had to run as independents.

Both Khan’s PTI and Sharif’s party, the Muslim League (PML-N) have claimed victory. But as the PML-N becomes the single largest party in parliament, it is likely to have the best chance at forming a coalition. It has already started to seek partners.

Internet shut down over post-election clashes

The final tally was released over 60 hours after voting concluded in Thursday’s national elections, a delay that has raised questions about the process.

The vote was overshadowed by a shutdown of internet services due to several bouts of organized violence in the country as well as allegations of manipulation.

There were initially no results from two constituencies; in one of the cases, there was no vote because of the murder of a candidate.

Khan set for decades in jail

The former cricket star was ousted as prime minister in a no-confidence vote in 2022. He has since faced over 150 court cases he claims to be politically motivated and endorsed by his rivals in the current government. Khan has so far been sentenced to three years in jail for corruption, followed by another sentence of 10 years for charges relating to leaking state secrets, then another 14 years for corruption, and, most recently both Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi were sentenced to seven years in prison each after a court decided their marriage violated the Pakistani law that states that a woman must wait three months after divorcing to marry again.

In another heavy blow to Khan’s supporters, a Pakistani court ruled that his party was not allowed to use a cricket bat as their symbol. PTI officials have pointed out that many voters in Pakistan are illiterate, and that not using the bat symbol would negatively affect their numbers. The party has accused the government of conducting a targeted clampdown against Khan and the PTI.

Military urges ‘unity’

Ahead of the final results, Pakistan’s powerful military called on politicians to show “political maturity and unity” amid questions regarding the election.

“Elections are not a zero-sum competition of winning and losing but an exercise to determine the mandate of the people,” army chief General Syed Asim Munir said in a statement.

“The nation needs stable hands and a healing touch to move on from the politics of anarchy and polarization,” the statement added.

Khan has accused the military of acting against him, but the military leaders deny those claims