Pakistan elections 2024: Uncertainty looms in Pakistan’s political landscape as all signs show the country heading for a hung parliament, with the results of just 13 constituencies awaited. While Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Bilawal Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have agreed to form a coalition government, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) claims that it is aiming to form the next government after a surprise strong show in the elections.
Out of the 253 seats whose results have been declared as of 5:00 pm, PTI-backed candidates have won 100 seats, while Nawaz’s party won 71 seats and Bilawal’s PPP got 54 seats. Although an impressive show by the PTI, whose leader was imprisoned and the party barred from the polls, it is still way short of the 133-mark required for a majority to form the next government.
Provincially, PTI swept Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while PPP reigned Supreme. The province of Punjab saw a tough fight between PTI and PML-N, with the Lahore family winning all their seats in Lahore. Balochistan was shared by a mix of regional and national political parties.
PTI chairman Gohar Ali Khan on Saturday said that the party would try to form a government as it had won the most seats in Thursday’s general election, despite a military-backed crackdown for months. Gohar caled on all institutions in Pakistan to respect the party’s mandate and said the party would hold peaceful protests if the results were not declared by Saturday night.
PTI to release banner for independent candidates
Gohar also alleged that there was a clear attempt to “shape the winning seats of the PTI into defeats” and remarked that it was the Election Commission of Pakistan’s “constitutional and legal responsibility” to declare polling results by 2 am the next day. This came as supporters of Imran Khan’s party held a protest in Peshawar and Quetta demanding free and fair elections.
He repeated his claim that that the PTI has won 170 National Assembly seats out of the 265 where elections were held, despite official results showing otherwise, saying that at least 22 seats were “converted to a defeat”. He also claimed that Pakistan President Arif Alvi would invite the party to form the government.
Under Pakistan’s electoral laws, independent candidates are not eligible to be allocated reserved seats, 70 of which are meant to be distributed according to party strength. Nawaz’s party could get up to 20 of these seats.
Moreover, Imran’s close aide and media advisor, Zulfi Bukhari, told Reuters the party will soon announce the party banner they will ask independents to join. In Pakistan, independent candidates cannot form a government on their own and need to join a party. The banner for independent candidates backed by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party will be announced within the next 24 hours, Bukhari said.
“And we have no fear of independents going anywhere, because these are the people who have struggled for the last 18 months and endured all kinds of torture and oppression,” the PTI leader added.
PML-N, PPP agree on coalition government
PTI’s claims come after PML-N and PPP failed to reach the majority remark and agreed to form a coalition government. PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif met PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto and former president Asif Ali Zardari and invited them to work together for Pakistan. Shehbaz also met top PPP leaders at the residence of Caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi.
After initially rebuffing the possibility of a coalition government, Nawaz Sharif gave a speech on Friday, claiming to be the single largest party and said he told his younger brother Shehbaz to reach out to the PPP’s Asif Ali Zardari, JUI-F’s Fazlur Rehman and MQM-P’s Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui for the formation of a coalition government.
“It appears that no single party is poised to form the government independently. I anticipate the formation of a coalition — a coalition of whosoever,” said caretaker PM Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Saturday, while urging patience to determine which party secures the “magic number of 169” needed to form the government.
The incarcerated former PM Imran also claimed victory in the elections and thanked the public for its overwhelming support, adding that the ‘London plan’ failed because of a massive turnout. “You have laid the foundation of real freedom by casting your votes yesterday [Thursday] and I congratulate you on the victory in the general elections 2024,” he said, calling Nawaz ‘stupid’ for claiming victory despite lagging by 30 seats.
A hung parliament does not bode well for Pakistan, as it needs quick action in seeking a new bailout programme from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after the current arrangement expires in three weeks.
Pakistan Army Chief lauds “successful elections”
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir congratulated the caretaker government, Election Commission of Pakistan, political parties and candidate on the “successful elections”, saying that the country needs a “healing touch” to move on from the politics of anarchy and polarisation.
“The constructive role played by national media, civil society, members of civil administration and judiciary enabled the successful conduct of the largest electoral exercise in national history,” the Inter-Services Public Relations, Pakistan Army’s media wing, quoted him in a statement.
“Elections and democracy are means to serve people of Pakistan and not ends in themselves. 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,” Munir further said. He asserted that political leadership and their workers should rise abover self-interests and synergise efforts to serve the people, effectively calling for a ‘unified government’.
The powerful Pakistan 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. Munir has enormous power and used almost every means of state power to ruthlessly keep Imran Khan and his party since the May 9 riots.
However, the Army’s efforts failed to influence Imran’s supporters given the seats won by PTI-backed candidates. However, the military is expected to play a role in keeping Imran Khan’s party out of power after a falling out during his tenure as talks continue.
Former National Assembly member injured in firing incident
Meanwhile, former Member of the National Assembly Mohsin Dawar, who leads the National Democratic Movement, was injured in a firing incident in North Waziristan. Dawar was contesting from the district’s NA-40 constituency, where he had alleged there were attempts to rig the polling results, according to Dawn.
Dawar’s party called for an urgent inquiry into the “unlawful attack” on peaceful protesters as he was taken to a district hospital. Members of other political parties, including PTI’s Shireen Mazari, strongly condemned the incident. Pakistan’s elections have been marred with violence and rigging claims, leading to protests by several parties. At least 28 people were killed on polling day.
Election result delay faces flak
Results of the vote have been unusually delayed, which the caretaker government ascribed to the suspension of mobile phone services – a security measure ahead of the election. Votes are still being counted after Thursday’s general election which was marred by allegations of rigging, sporadic violence and a countrywide mobile phone shutdown.
Authorities were earlier moving at a snail’s pace to announce the election results that in a surprising development showed Khan’s PTI supported independent candidates leading the show. The polling ended at 5 pm on Thursday but the first official result was announced 10 hours later at 3 am on Friday, irking many about the delay and giving fuel to the rumours of foul play to manipulate the outcome.
Kakar denied a “political motive” behind the internet shutdown, as countries like the US and Britain expressed concern over poll irregularities, emphasising that people were able to peacefully exercise their right to vote. The US State Department said Thursday’s vote was held under undue restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
(with inputs from agencies)