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Imran Khan's party leading as Pakistan counts the votes

Last updated on: July 26, 2018 01:53 IST

This election is the second democratic transition of power in the nation’s 70-year history.

IMAGE: A supporter of Imran Khan wears a mask and dances as the votes show that his party, the PTI, is in the lead in Karachi. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

Pakistan’s flamboyant cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was leading in 109 seats while its main rival Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was way behind with 67 seats in an election marred by a deadly suicide attack and allegations of manipulations by the powerful military.

 

The Pakistan Peoples Party of former president Asif Ali Zardari was leading in 38 seats, a sign indicating that he could be a ‘kingmaker’ in case of a hung parliament, according to media reports.

 

IMAGE: A supporter of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (waves the party flag from the window of a car outside a polling station during the general election in Karachi. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

Polling was postponed in two constituencies following the death of candidates in terror attacks.

IMAGE: Supporters of Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, celebrate during the general election in Rawalpindi. Photograph: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters

Meanwhile, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb raised objections over the counting process and alleged that her party’s agents were being forced out from the polling stations in several constituencies.

“The counting process is being carried out behind closed doors and changes are being made to Form-45,” she alleged while talking to reporters.

The party of jailed former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif rejected the eventual results of Wednesday's general election, alleging rigging during the counting process.

IMAGE: A man mourns the death of a relative, who was killed in a suicide blast in Quetta, Pakistan. Photograph: Naseer Ahmed/Reuters

Sharif's party has accused the military for weeks of attempting to throw the election to opposition figure Imran Khan, a former cricket star and anti-corruption crusader.

Shehbaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and brother of the ousted prime minister, early on Thursday rejected the counting process as results were still trickling out and no winner had been declared but projections showed a strong lead for Khan.

"We reject this result," Shehbaz Sharif said.

PPP’s Maula Bux Chandio also claimed that his party’s agents were not allowed inside polling stations in Badin while Pak Sarzameen Party leader Raza Haroon made the same claim about the treatment meted out to their agents at different polling stations across Karachi.

Opposition Leader in Senate Senator Sherry Rehman also raised objections over the counting process.

IMAGE: Members of the bomb disposal unit survey the site after a suicide blast, in Quetta, Pakistan. Photograph: Naseer Ahmed/Reuters

Responding to the allegations, the provincial election commissioner in Punjab said political leaders should refrain from levelling such baseless allegations without having any substantial proof.

IMAGE: Security officers at the site of a blast outside a polling station in Quetta, Pakistan. Photograph: Naseer Ahmed/Reuters

The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal -- an alliance of traditional religious parties such as Jamaat-e-Islami led by Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan led by Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani and Tehreek-e-Jafaria led by Allama Sajid Naqvi -- and Muttahida Qaumi Movement were leading in six seats each.

Pakistan’s National Assembly comprises a total of 342 members, of which 272 are directly elected whereas the rest -- 60 seats reserved for women and 10 for religious minorities -- are selected later through proportional representation among parties with more than five per cent of the vote.

IMAGE: Shehbaz Sharif, brother of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and leader of Pakistan Muslim League -Nawaz, gestures after casting his ballot at a polling station during general election in Lahore. Photograph: Mohsin Raza/Reuters

A party can only form the government if it manages to clinch 172 seats in total. A single party will need at least 137 of the directly elected seats to be able to form the government on its own.

According to the Election Commission, 3,459 candidates are in the race for 272 general seats of the National Assembly, while 8,396 candidates are running for 577 general seats of the four provincial assemblies - Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. More than 30 political parties have fielded their candidates.

IMAGE: Cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, speaks to members of media after casting his vote at a polling station in Islamabad. Photograph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

In the Punjab assembly, PML-N was close to a simple majority, with the party leading in 133 seats. PTI was leading in 118 seats according to trends available for 285 seats out of 297 seats.

In the Sindh assembly, PPP was emerging as the single largest party in its traditional bastion. The party was leading in 60 seats according to trends available for 92 seats out of 131 seats. PTI was leading in 11 seats.

IMAGE: Mumbai terror attack mastermind casts his vote. Photograph: ANI

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, PTI was leading in 18 of 99 assembly seats while Awami National Party was leading in six constituencies.

IMAGE: Daughters of Benazir Bhutto -- Bakhtawar and Aseefa -- after casting their vote in Sindh's Nawabshah. Photograph: @BakhtawarBZ/Twitter

Earlier, the voting ended at its scheduled time despite calls by several major parties, including PML-N, PPP and PTI, to extend the polling time by an hour. They had complained of “a slow voting process” and thus sought more time to facilitate voters - a request that was rejected by the Election Commission.

Hours after polling began for the general elections, an Islamic State suicide bomber blew himself up outside a polling station in Bhosa Mandi area of Balochistan’s provincial capital, Quetta, killing 31 people, including policemen.

 

IMAGE: A voter walks next to a police officer as she prepares to cast her vote during the general election in Karachi. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

In separate incidents, four persons were killed in poll-related violence. Clashes erupted between rival parties outside several polling stations, reports said.

Nearly 10.6 crore people are registered to vote for members of the lower house of parliament and four provincial assemblies. The election marks the second democratic transition of power in the nation’s 70-year history.

IMAGE: Voters cast their votes at a polling station during general election in Islamabad, Pakistan. Photograph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

For a smooth polling process, the ECP had deployed around 1.6 million staff at polling stations across the country. About 4,49,465 policemen and over 3,70,000 military personnel were deployed for security. A public holiday was declared across the country on Wednesday in order to facilitate the voting process.

The run up to the elections has seen a massive crackdown on the media and allegations that the military has secretly backed the campaign of Khan while targeting his political opponents.

IMAGE: People stand in a line as they wait for a polling station to open in Rawalpindi. Photograph: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters

The military has ruled Pakistan through various coups for nearly half of the country’s history since independence in 1947.

The ECP was also criticised for deploying the army both inside and outside of polling stations.

Former prime minister Sharif, the supremo of the PML-N who was jailed this month after being convicted in a corruption case, also accused the military of pressuring the judiciary to convict him. Both institutions deny the charge.

Controversy has also arisen over allowing militant groups to participate in the elections. The leading among them are Mumbai-terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed-led banned Jamat-ud Dawa’s candidates. His party is leading in one constituency.

Sajjad Hussain
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