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Imran Khan’s PTI party begins coalition talks as rivals plan protests in Pakistan

The latest tally, released early Saturday after long delays, showed Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) short of the 137 majority mark by 26 seats while the outgoing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is a distant second with 64 seats.

world Updated: Jul 28, 2018 22:01 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Imran Khan,Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf,PML-N
A man walks past an image of cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) at a market in Islamabad, Pakistan, July 27, 2018.(Reuters)

Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has secured the support of eight independent members of parliament, but is still short of the 137 needed to form the country’s next government.

The Election Commission declared that the PTI won 116 out of the 270 seats in Wednesday’s elections. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) secured 64, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) won 43 and independent candidates carried 13. The voter turnout was 51.85%, said commission spokesperson Nadeem Qasim.

Several candidates have filed objections to the results and demanded recounts, which are underway in many National Assembly constituencies as well as in provincial seats.

The PTI said it is confident it would form the government both at the centre and in Punjab province. PTI won 123 provincial assembly seats in Punjab, but PML-N is narrowly ahead with 127 seats. PML-Q won seven seats, while PPP bagged six.

Five independent candidates who agreed to support PTI in Punjab Assembly reached Islamabad from Multan through a special aircraft. The announcement of their induction is expected soon.

Allegations of partiality by the Election Commission continued to mount. Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s petition for a recount in his NA-57 Murree constituency was rejected on Saturday by the returning officer. Abbasi lost his home constituency and allegations of rigging were hurled by PML-N workers after they were stopped from interfering in the counting process.

For its part, PPP while rejecting election results, demanded the resignation of the Chief Election Commissioner but at the same time said it would sit in parliament.

“PPP believes in democratic dispensation and will be part of parliament process. We will try to convince other opposition parties to come to parliament and take up this issue over there,” party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told reporters.

The All Parties Conference (APC) convened by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) – an alliance of religious parties – on Friday night failed to create any ripples due to non-participation of some key stakeholders and refusal of PML-N not to take oath as lawmakers of national and provincial legislatures.

There was a visible divide among the participants from the parties that faced a crushing defeat at the hands of PTI. The MMA announced that its elected members would not take oath to protest the “stolen public mandate” and demanded fresh polls. The PML-N, however, refused to become part of this move, saying it would internally discuss the matter before adopting a decisive strategy.

The event’s significance was undermined after PPP, the third largest political force, as well as some other stakeholders like the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) announced not to participate citing its ‘extensive internal commitments’ in Sindh province.

The APC, which consists of more than a dozen parties, promised to protest the results.

‘No stamina’

Retired general and analyst Talat Masood said the APC may succeed in sparking pockets of unrest but did not see the movement upsetting stability at the national level.

“Opposition parties are divided and they are not genuinely in a mood to form any major opposition. I don’t think they have this stamina and the support of the people for going for a big movement,” said Masood.

The protests announcement late Friday came as the United States, the European Union and other observers aired reservations over widespread claims that the powerful military had tried to fix the playing field in Khan’s favour.

Khan’s victory represents an end to decades of rotating leadership between the PML-N and the Pakistan PPP that was punctuated by periods of military rule.

The vote was meant to be a rare democratic transition in the Muslim country, which has been ruled by the powerful army for roughly half its history.

But it was marred by violence and allegations of military interference in the months leading up to the vote, with Khan seen as the beneficiary.

The former cricket star will face myriad challenges, including militant extremism, an economic crisis with speculation that Pakistan will have to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, water shortages and a booming population. (With agency inputs)

First Published: Jul 28, 2018 15:09 IST