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Stunning Opposition Victory Throws Pakistan Into Chaos

Stunning Opposition Victory Throws Pakistan Into Chaos


The celebration of the imprisoned former prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Kahn, gained essentially the most seats in parliamentary elections this week, delivering a robust rebuke to the nation’s highly effective generals and throwing the political system into chaos.

Whereas navy leaders had hoped the election would put an finish to the political turmoil that has consumed the nation since Mr. Khan’s ouster in 2022, it has as a substitute plunged it into a good deeper disaster, analysts mentioned.

By no means earlier than within the nation’s historical past has a politician seen such success in an election with out the backing of the generals — a lot much less after going through their iron fist.

In voting on Thursday, candidates from Mr. Khan’s celebration, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or P.T.I., appeared to win about 97 seats within the Nationwide Meeting, the decrease home of Parliament, the nation’s election fee reported on Saturday. The navy’s most popular celebration, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or P.M.L.N., led by a three-time former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, gained no less than 73 seats, the fee mentioned. Solely seven seats have been left unaccounted for — not sufficient to alter the end result as reported by the fee.

Whereas candidates aligned with Mr. Khan have been set to be the biggest group in Parliament, they nonetheless fell in need of a easy majority — setting off a race between the events of Mr. Khan and Mr. Sharif to win over different lawmakers and set up a coalition authorities.

Leaders of Mr. Khan’s celebration additionally mentioned they deliberate court docket challenges in dozens of races that they imagine have been rigged by the navy, and mentioned they’d urge their followers to carry peaceable protests if the remaining outcomes weren’t launched by Sunday.

The success of Mr. Khan’s celebration was a head-spinning upset in an election that the navy thought could be a straightforward victory for Mr. Sharif. Forward of final week’s election, Pakistan’s highly effective generals had jailed Mr. Khan, arrested candidates allied with him and intimidated his supporters to clear his celebration from the taking part in discipline — or in order that they thought. As an alternative, the election outcomes confirmed that Mr. Khan stays a formidable pressure in Pakistani politics, his ouster and subsequent imprisonment.

On Friday night, Mr. Khan’s celebration launched a victory speech utilizing a computer-generated voice to simulate that of Mr. Khan, who has been jailed since August. “I congratulate you all on your election 2024 victory. I had full confidence that you’d all come out to vote,” the A.I.-generated voice mentioned. “Your huge turnout has surprised everyone.”

The success of Mr. Khan’s celebration upended the decades-old political playbook governing Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 240 million. All through these years, the navy has wielded final authority, guiding its politics behind a veil of secrecy, and civilian leaders have sometimes risen to energy solely with its help — or been pushed from workplace by its heavy hand.

The vote additionally confirmed that Mr. Khan’s technique of preaching reform and railing in opposition to the navy has resonated deeply with Pakistanis — notably younger individuals — who’re disillusioned with the political system. It additionally proved that his loyal base of supporters was seemingly resistant to the navy’s previous techniques for demoralizing voters, together with arresting supporters and issuing lengthy jail sentences to their political leaders days earlier than the vote.

Mr. Khan, a former cricket star turned populist politician, was sentenced to a complete of 34 years in jail after being convicted in 4 separate instances on prices that included leaking state secrets and techniques and illegal marriage, and that he has referred to as politically motivated.

Three of these verdicts have been issued simply days earlier than the vote — an previous tactic utilized by the navy, analysts say. However early estimates present that round 48 % of the voters turned out for the election, in keeping with the Free and Honest Election Community, a corporation of civil society teams. Voter turnout within the nation’s previous two elections was about 50 %, the group mentioned.

The outcomes have been “each an anti-establishment vote and likewise a vote in opposition to the established order, in opposition to the 2 different main political events which were ruling the nation and their dynastic politics,” Zahid Hussain, an analyst primarily based in Islamabad, mentioned, referring to the navy because the institution.

And not using a easy majority, most analysts imagine it is going to be troublesome for Mr. Khan’s celebration, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or P.T.I., to type a authorities. Some P.T.I. leaders have additionally steered that the celebration would fairly stay within the opposition than lead a weakened coalition authorities with Mr. Khan nonetheless behind bars.

Regardless of lagging behind within the polls, on Friday Mr. Sharif gave a victory speech in entrance of a crowd of supporters of his celebration, P.M.L.N. He additionally invited different events to hitch his in forming a coalition authorities, suggesting that such a coalition wouldn’t embody P.T.I.

“We’re inviting everybody in the present day to rebuild this injured Pakistan and sit with us,” he mentioned in a speech in Lahore, the capital of Punjab Province.

However any coalition Mr. Sharif manages to type will face critical political challenges. The coalition authorities led by P.M.L.N. after Mr. Khan’s ouster was deeply unpopular and extensively criticized failing to handle an financial disaster that has battered the nation and despatched inflation to document highs.

The incoming authorities can be more likely to face a critical legitimacy disaster. The election on Thursday has additionally been criticized by some as one of many least credible within the nation’s historical past, and delays in releasing the election outcomes have led to widespread allegations that the navy tampered with the vote rely to tip the scales again in P.M.L.N.’s favor.

With P.T.I. promising bruising and prolonged court docket battles over the outcomes, it may very well be a while earlier than any celebration manages to type a authorities.

“We are going to pursue all authorized choices, and we are going to pursue all constitutional choices,” mentioned the P.T.I. chief, Raoof Hasan.

Zia ur-Rehman contributed reporting.


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