• Tuesday, March 05, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Pakistan polls: Imran Khan’s supporters emerge frontrunners

Initial trends indicate that independent candidates backed by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party have an edge over their rivals

Supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), protest outside the temporary election commission office demanding free and fair results of the election at Shahdarah in Lahore, Pakistan, February 9, 2024. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

By: Shajil Kumar

Supporters of jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan had the edge on Friday in Pakistan’s election results from over 100 seats, after vote counts were hit by unusual delays that the government ascribed to a suspension of mobile phone services.

A total of 265 seats were contested in Thursday’s election and the winning party should bag 133 seats to form the next government.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) data shows that results of 122 constituencies have been declared, which include 49 independents (mostly supported by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) 39, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) 30 and other seats going to smaller parties.

Unofficial result trends being aired on the television channels showed the PTI-backed candidates having upstaged their rivals in many National and Provincial Assembly seats.

Khan is in jail and his PTI party was barred from the election, so his supporters contested as independents after they were not allowed to use the party symbol – a cricket bat.

The delay in the announcement of results was unusual for elections in Pakistan. An “internet issue” was the reason behind the delay, Zafar Iqbal, special secretary at the ECP, said without elaborating.

However, there are reports that the returning officers have stopped issuing the results to the media following an apparent victory of PTI in most seats in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

The ECP started updating results at a faster pace after facing a barrage of criticism by the parties, especially the PTI which accused that its mandate was being stolen.

The government said it suspended mobile phone services ahead of the election on Thursday as a security measure, and they were being partially restored.

The main 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.

Meanwhile, Sharif has left his party office for home after receiving a “humiliating defeat” report, a PML-N insider told Press Trust of India. “Nawaz Sharif, his brother Shehbaz Sharif, and daughter Maryam Nawaz who had gathered at the Model Town party office left late Thursday night for home after knowing the PML-N’s humiliating defeat in the polls,” he said.

However, Sharif, his younger brother Shehbaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and Shebaz’s son have scored victories from Lahore, their home and party’s stronghold.

PTI leader Gohar Ali Khan won NA-10 in the Buner area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa by defeating Awami National Party candidate Abdul Rauf. PTI’s former speaker National Assembly Asad Qaisar also won.

PPP leaders Asif Ali Zardari and his son party chief Bilawal were leading in their constituencies.

As far as the provincial assemblies were concerned, the ECP data showed results of 53 constituencies of the Sindh Assembly, with the PPP succeeding in 45 constituencies while independent candidates won only four constituencies.

In 50 constituencies of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, 45 PTI-backed independent candidates supported by Tehreek-e-Insaf secured victories.

In the Punjab Assembly, PML-N has won 39 seats. The results of six constituencies of the Balochistan Assembly have been received so far where PML-N and Balochistan National Party (BNP) Awami have been successful in one seat each. JUI-F won three seats while PPP won one seat. (Agencies)

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