Pakistan army urges unity as ex-PMs both declare election winon February 10, 2024 at 10:49 am

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Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif both say they have emerged victorious in polls that defied predictions.

nawaz sharifImage source, Reuters

Pakistan’s powerful army chief has urged the country to leave “anarchy and polarisation” behind as two ex-prime ministers declared victory in an election that has defied expectations.

With most results in, independent candidates linked to jailed former PM Imran Khan have won most seats.

But Nawaz Sharif, another ex-PM widely seen as having the army’s backing, has urged others to join him in coalition.

Officials have also rejected Western criticism of how the election was run.

With no clear outcome, General Asim Munir called on all parties to show maturity and unity, saying the politics of polarisation did “not suit a progressive country of 250 million people”.

“Elections are not a zero-sum competition of winning and losing but an exercise to determine the mandate of the people,” Gen Munir said.

Fourteen National Assembly seats are yet to be determined – all in the vast and sparsely-populated Balochistan province – but both Mr Khan and Mr Sharif say they have won.

Mr Khan released an AI-generated video message rejecting his rival’s claim and calling on supporters to celebrate. He has been jailed on charges of leaking state secrets, corruption and an unlawful marriage and his PTI party was banned from taking part in the polls.

About 100 of the wining candidates are independents and all but eight of them are backed by the PTI, the non-profit Free and Fair Election Network said.

Mr Sharif’s PML-N party won 71 seats ad the PPP of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated PM Benazir Bhutto, got 53. The rest were won by smaller parties and independents.

The PML-N party has now begun talks with other groups about forming a unity government and it could be a while before anyone is able to claim outright victory.

Mr Sharif acknowledged that he did not have the numbers to form a government alone, but insisted he could remove the country from difficult times at the head of a coalition.

pakistan army on polling day in karachi

Image source, EPA

On Friday the US, UK and EU each expressed concerns about the fairness of the election. UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said there were “serious concerns” raising questions “about the fairness and lack of inclusivity of the elections”.

But Pakistan’s foreign ministry rejected this as “not even factual”.

It said the statements neither took into account “the complexity of the electoral process” nor acknowledged Pakistanis’ “free and enthusiastic exercise of the right to vote by tens of millions of Pakistanis”.

There were sporadic reports of violence during the election. A former National Assembly member and head of National Defense Movement Party, Mohsin Dawar was shot and injured in Miranshah, North Waziristan in an incident that killed a fellow party member, his party said.

There were also reports of a protest in the south-western port city of Gwadar in Balochistan province, where some voters alleged irregularities in vote counting.

Additional reporting by Saher Baloch

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