Supporters of Imran Khan, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan who is currently imprisoned, have a possibility of gaining a majority of the seats. However, they might be excluded from the negotiations to form a government coalition. The Army Chief, Syed Asim Munir, stated that Pakistan needs to move away from the policy of anarchy and polarization, which is not suitable for a progressive country.
Despite the strict repression by the authorities, Imran Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has performed beyond expectations. As per the latest count, independent candidates backed by Khan have won at least 99 seats, with 88 of them being loyal to Khan. The Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), led by Nawaz Sharif, which was a favorite in the elections, secured 71 seats. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, stood third, performing better than expected with 53 seats.
PTI recently released an AI-generated video that depicts Imran Khan claiming victory. In the video, Khan congratulates everyone for winning the 2024 elections and states that independent sources report PTI winning 150 seats in the National Assembly before the alleged manipulation of the elections started. Of the 266 seats in the election, 15 are yet to be filled. The three main blocs will have to negotiate alliances in the absence of an absolute majority. PML-N seems in the best position to achieve this, but all options remain open.
Nawaz Sharif invites other successful parties and candidates to work with him. He is a 74-year-old politician who has already served as the prime minister thrice. After spending four years in exile in London, Sharif returned to Pakistan in October and reportedly has the support of the army. Imran Khan’s party was not permitted to appear on the ballot papers; therefore, his candidates contested as independents. Smaller parties won a total of 27 seats, including 17 for the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). These parties could attract PTI’s attention in the coming days as they could claim a share of the 70 seats reserved for women and religious minorities based on previous results if independent candidates join them.
Pro-PTI candidates primarily won seats in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Khan’s stronghold. Violent clashes occurred there on Friday evening, resulting in the death of two supporters and 24 injuries. On Thursday, 16 people were killed in 61 recorded attacks, as per the Interior Ministry. The day before, 28 people had died in two attacks. The PML-N and the PPP, founded on family dynasties and traditionally rivals, have shared much of the power with the military for decades. They have previously collaborated and might do so again. After Imran Khan’s ouster as prime minister in a no-confidence motion in April 2022, they formed a coalition government under the leadership of Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz’s brother. However, the PPP distanced itself from the PML-N during the election campaign and seems to have suffered less from the unpopularity of the government. Its leader, the son of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007, has been critical of the PML-N. However, Pakistani politics is known for its unexpected twists and seemingly unnatural deals.
For the supporters of Imran Khan, the conclusion of the elections might be bittersweet. Many believe that the victory was taken away from them, as the delays in counting have only increased the suspicions of manipulation. The Election Commission attributed the slow process to “internet problems”. The shutdown of mobile phone and internet services by the authorities on Thursday had already raised doubts about the fairness of the elections. The campaign was also marred by accusations of “pre-election fraud”, with the popular Imran Khan, 71, being sidelined and sentenced to three long prison terms. On Friday, Washington and London expressed their “concerns” about the conduct of the elections, and protests took place on Friday evening in the capital, Peshawar.