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PTI-backed candidates emerge as largest bloc

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Picture: Peoples Dispatch – Former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party, the PTI, has been staging protests alleging rigging and other irregularities in Pakistan’s election. Meanwhile, discussions are on among parties to form a new government

By Peoples Dispatch

Independents backed by former Prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have emerged as the largest group in Pakistan’s National Assembly, after results for most of the seats were announced on Sunday, February 11. However, uncertainty looms since no party, or group, has the majority of seats required to form a government.

The results for some constituencies were put on hold due to stay orders issued by the courts after complaints filed by candidates claiming fraud.

There are 336 seats in Pakistan’s National Assembly. However, elections were held only for 265 seats. In one seat, the process was postponed due to technical reasons. The rest of the seats are reserved for women (60) and minorities (10) and are allotted according to the proportion of the seats won by respective parties in the elections.

Though there is no official data for voter turnout, according to independent sources it was estimated to be around 47 percent, much lower than earlier expectations and even lower than the last national elections held in 2018 when it was reported to be around 50 percent.

As per the ECP, in the National Assembly, PTI-backed independents won 101 seats, the Pakistan Muslim League (N), led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif won 75, and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) got 54 seats. Others won 38 seats.

In the four provincial elections, which were held along with the National Assembly, PTI-backed candidates won the most number of seats in Punjab, the most populous province, obtaining 138 out of 296, and won a majority in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) with 90 seats out of 112. In Sindh, the PPP secured a majority winning 84 seats out of 129, whereas Balochistan got a hung assembly.

All these provincial assemblies have reserved seats allocated to the parties as per their seat share in the popular elections.

PTI, which was denied its electoral symbol, the cricket bat, by the ECP, was forced to field its candidates as independents. The party had earlier claimed its candidates won a majority of the seats in the National Assembly. It has also accused the ECP of attempting to rig the election after a delay in the publication of final results.

Allegations of manipulation and rigging were also made by several other groups and individuals in Pakistan with country’s leading newspaper Dawn calling it, “the outright theft of public mandate in some parts of the country, as evidenced by the large discrepancies between various reported results.”

PTI and PML (N) contenders for forming government

On Friday, PTI’s official X (formerly Twitter) handle had claimed that candidates backed by them won in 154 out of 255 contested seats and alleged that the ECP had manipulated the results. On Sunday, it demanded the resignation of the chief election commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja.

PTI supporters held protests at different locations across the country on Sunday against the alleged manipulation. Protests were held by candidates and supporters of other parties as well.

At the same time, PTI lawyer Umair Khan Niazi claimed that his party was willing to form governments at the federal level and in Punjab and KP provinces. He made the announcement after meeting Imran Khan in Adiala Jail on Saturday, Dawn reported.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML (N) has initiated discussions with PPP to form coalitions for both the federal government and Punjab.

The majority mark in the National Assembly election is 169. Since PTI was not contesting as a party, it may be deprived of any share in the 70 reserved seats.

However, if PTI legislators decide to join another party in the National Assembly, that party will have their share of the reserved seats.

The elections were held amid controversies related to the persecution of Khan. In the run-up to the elections, he was convicted in four different cases. Khan has been sentenced to jail for three, 10, 14, and seven years in these cases. He and his wife have been barred from holding any public office for ten years as well.

Talking to the press on Sunday, PTI chairperson Gohar Ali Khan alleged that his party had been denied victory by the ECP. He claimed his party had won 170 out of 265 seats in the National Assembly and was exploring legal options to get a clear picture on results.

This article was first published on Peoples Dispatch