Imran Khan declares election victory, says ready to serve Pakistan
Pakistan’s cricket hero Imran Khan on Thursday declared victory in the country’s controversial elections, as rival parties alleged poll rigging and counting of votes progressed slowly.
“We were successful and we were given a mandate,” said Khan, 65, said in a televised speech from his house near the capital Islamabad.“God has given me a chance to come to power to implement that ideology which I started 22 years ago.”
He offered an olive branch to India, saying he wants to improve ties. “If they take one step towards us, we will take two, but at least we need a start,” he said.
The Pakistan Army’s backing for Khan and his support to Islamist voices have given rise to apprehensions that he would take a hard position on engagement with India.
With 48 percent of the total vote counted, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party was leading in 113 of 272 contested National Assembly constituencies. Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was ahead in 64 constituencies, and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), helmed by the son of assassinated two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto, led in 42 constituencies, reported news agency Reuters.
But PML-N supporters said the vote count was rigged and called it an assault on democracy in a country that has a history of military rule.
“It is a sheer rigging. The way the people’s mandate has blatantly been insulted, it is intolerable,” Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N president and Nawaz Sharif’s brother, told a news conference as the counting continued.
Khan offered to investigate all the claims of rigging and said he wants to “unite” the country under his leadership.
Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) secretary Babar Yaqoob told reporters early on Thursday counting had been delayed by technical failures in an electronic reporting system and the tallying was now being conducted manually. The results had been due by around 2am (2.30am IST Wednesday).
“There’s no conspiracy, nor any pressure in delay of the results. The delay is being caused because the result transmission system has collapsed,” Yaqoob said.
(With inputs from Reuters)