February 22nd, 2024

Pakistan election results are delayed, but wins are reported for independents backed by Khan’s party

By The Associated Press on February 8, 2024.

Members of polling staff count the votes after the polls closed for parliamentary elections, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) – The results of Pakistan’s elections were delayed by connectivity issues Friday a day after the vote that was marred by sporadic violence, a mobile phone service shutdown and the sidelining of former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his party.

Local media reported victories by independents backed by his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party after the imprisoned Khan was disqualified from contesting the vote because of criminal convictions he contends were politically motivated.

PTI candidates ran as independents after the Supreme Court and Election Commission said they couldn’t use the party symbol – a cricket bat. In Pakistan, parties use symbols to help illiterate voters find them on the ballots. PTI couldn’t hold rallies or open campaign offices, and its online events were blocked, steps it contended were unfair.

The chief election commissioner had previously said the results would be communicated to the oversight body by the early hours of Friday and released to the public after that. But that hasn’t happened. The Interior Ministry attributed the delay to a “lack of connectivity” resulting from security precautions.

Many Pakistani news channels reported that PTI-backed independents were giving the other big parties, led by three-time former premier Nawaz Sharif and political dynasty scion Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, a run for their money by striding ahead in dozens of constituencies.

Senator Mushahid Hussain, a member of Sharif’s party, called the media tallies “probably the biggest election upset in Pakistan’s political history” in the last 50 years. Withheld results were a recipe for disaster, he said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

There are 266 seats up for grabs in the National Assembly, with a further 70 reserved for women and minorities. If no party wins an outright majority, the one with the biggest share of the seats can form a coalition government.

Sharif struck a confident and defiant note on polling day, brushing off suggestions his Pakistan Muslim League party might not win an outright majority in the parliament. But the mood outside his headquarters was different by nightfall, with sparse crowds and no festivities.

He returned to the country last October after four years of self-imposed exile abroad to avoid serving prison sentences. Within weeks of his return, his convictions were overturned, leaving him free to seek a fourth term in office.

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