The allies of imprisoned former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan clinched more seats in the national elections than the political factions that ousted him from power almost two years ago, as per the final results announced on Sunday.
The election held last Thursday for the new parliament was marred by accusations of vote tampering, an unprecedented shutdown of mobile phone services, and the exclusion of Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) from participating in the polls.
Due to actions taken by the Election Commission and the Supreme Court aimed at hampering PTI’s involvement, individuals associated with PTI contested the elections as independent candidates. These measures included stripping the party of its electoral symbol, which was crucial for aiding illiterate voters in locating candidates on the ballot, and prohibiting party rallies.
Khan, who was removed from office via a parliamentary no-confidence vote in 2022, has been in detention since August of the same year. His disqualification from contesting the elections stemmed from criminal convictions, which he alleges are politically motivated.
The final tally revealed that independent candidates secured 101 out of 266 seats in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. The Pakistan Muslim League-N party (PML-N), led by three-time former premier Nawaz Sharif, who has served time in prison, secured the second-largest number of seats with 75.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), led by Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, came third with 54 seats. One result is pending, and another vote was postponed due to the death of a candidate. The campaign to remove Khan from office in 2022 was spearheaded by PML-N and PPP.
With no party securing a majority to form a government, Pakistan is poised for a coalition. The new parliament will select the country’s next prime minister.
The election outcome presents a setback for Sharif, who was viewed as the favored candidate of the powerful security establishment due to his smooth return to the country last October. Pakistan’s military has traditionally positioned itself as the ultimate arbiter in determining the prime minister.
Despite Sharif’s initial reluctance to form a coalition and his insistence on a full five-year term for one party on polling day, by Friday evening, given his party’s trailing position behind the independent candidates supported by Khan, he began to discuss alliances and cooperation.