Pakistan election: victor Imran Khan hits former ruling party in its heartlands - with thanks to Nizami Khaled

The scale of Khan’s win across the country has made the PTI a rare “truly national party”.

The ease with which the PTI can implement its policy agenda also received a significant boost from its strong performance in state-level elections. Khan will still need to form a coalition to become prime minister, which requires at least 137 seats, but a single party winning contests across the country – in the north, south and Punjab – is rare in Pakistani politics.

As well as forming the federal government, the PTI’s capture of 118 seats in the provincial assembly of Punjab, the largest and wealthiest province, means it has a good chance of evicting the PML-N from the state government there, a stronghold that its leadership, even as they contemplated defeat, had been desperate to protect.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said turnout had dropped to 52%, a fall of two points on 2013, as had been expected following a low-energy campaign beset by allegations the military was seeking to hobble the PML-N.

In a televised victory speech on Thursday, Khan struck a unifiying tone, pledging to lift up the poor and allow the rigging claims to be investigated.

The PML-N founder, Nawaz Sharif, told family from the prison cell where he is serving a 10-year sentence for corruption that he considered the result “stolen”.

General Asif Ghafoor, the army’s spokesperson, drew criticism after tweeting “You honour who You will and You humble who You will”, a verse from the Qur’an that was taken in some quarters as confirmation of the military’s support for Khan.

The trickle of official results threw up surprises. Top PML-N leaders performed worse than expected. The former prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who took up the role after the ousting of Sharif, lost both the constituencies he was contesting.

The former finance minister Miftah Ismail posted on Twitter that he was “looking for work” after his own defeat. Shahbaz Sharif, Nawaz’s brother and the new leader of the party, scraped into parliament after losing three of the four seats he contested.

Although Tehreek-e-Labbaik, a new far-right Islamist party dedicated to killing blasphemers, failed to win any national seats, its strong second-place in many contests raised fears that it will influence the future of Pakistani politics.

The party claimed a startling 10% of the vote in the 110-million strong province of Punjab, cutting into the PML-N vote bank, and won two seats in the Sindh provincial government.

Analyst Umair Javed told the Guardian that the scale of Khan’s win across the country made the PTI a rare “truly national party”. It won a two-thirds majority in the northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the first since 1951, while at the other end of Pakistan, in the southern business capital of Karachi, the party vastly outperformed expectations to claim half the seats.
That might reflect a shift away from ethnicity-based politics in both regions, said Javed.

A former PML-N cabinet minister, Khawaja Saad Rafique, petitioned for a recount of his defeat to Imran Khan in the capital of Punjab, Lahore. He said the presiding officer at the polling station “rejected” many votes.

The PML-N will host a conference of opposition leaders in Islamabad on Friday to discuss their response after all said that the vote was rigged, with their polling agents – workers who keep an eye on the count – evicted from ballot booths by security officials. At a party meeting on Thursday, the PML-N decided against boycotting parliament.

Posted on Jul 28, 18 | 6:29 am