Monday, March 4, 2024
Monday, March 4, 2024
HomeWorldPakistan army chief's advice to 'show maturity' to politicians over poll results

Pakistan army chief’s advice to ‘show maturity’ to politicians over poll results

Asim Munir said Pakistan needs to leave behind the politics of anarchy. (Archive)


Pakistan’s army chief on Saturday called on feuding politicians to show “maturity and unity” after an election failed to produce a clear winner, leaving the military’s favored party having to form a coalition to govern.

The country faces days of political horse-trading after a strong showing by independent candidates loyal to jailed former prime minister Imran Khan ruined the army-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s chances of winning a ruling majority.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) defied a months-long crackdown that paralyzed campaigning and forced candidates to run as independents with a combined performance that still challenged their rivals.

The army looms large in Pakistan’s political landscape, and generals have ruled the country for almost half of its history since the partition of India in 1947.

“Elections are not a zero-sum, win-lose competition, but an exercise in determining the mandate of the people,” Army Chief Gen. Syed Asim Munir said in a statement released by the military.

“As the people of Pakistan have reposed their combined trust in the Constitution of Pakistan, it is now incumbent on all political parties to reciprocate with political maturity and unity.”

“The nation needs steady hands and a healing touch to overcome the politics of anarchy and polarization that do not suit a progressive country of 250 million people.”

Forced to close deals

After long delays in results that sparked fresh accusations that the military establishment had committed electoral fraud, the PML-N declared victory on Friday as the party with the largest number of seats.

However, to form a government, the party founded by three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif will be forced to make deals with rivals and independents.

There were reports on Friday night of leaders of several parties arriving at the PML-N power base in Lahore for talks.

“We do not have a sufficient majority to run the government ourselves, so we invite the other parties and candidates who have been successful to work with us,” Sharif said at his party headquarters in the city.

In an AI-generated video produced by the PTI, Mr Khan is credited with claiming the party’s victory.

“According to independent sources, we were winning 150 seats in the National Assembly before the manipulation began,” read the message posted on his X account, which included a genuine video of him from a year ago and an AI-generated voiceover.

A slow counting process showed that independents had won at least 100 seats (89 of them Khan loyalists) by Saturday morning.

The PML-N won 71 and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) won 54, with 13 of the 266 elected National Assembly seats yet to be announced.

Minor parties shared 27 seats, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which won 17, which is likely to be of great interest to the PTI in the coming days.

If PTI independents join one of them, they can get a share of the other 70 unelected seats reserved for women and religious minorities, which are allocated based on the party’s performance in the contested vote.

‘Counting our votes’

Most of the seats won by Khan loyalists were in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where police said at least two PTI supporters were killed on Friday and more than 20 injured while protesting against alleged electoral fraud in Shangla district, the first serious post-election violence on record. .

“Our results have changed,” said Muhammad Saleem, a 28-year-old shopkeeper, who joined about 2,000 PTI supporters marching in Peshawar.

“The government should count all our votes.”

Imran Khan was banned from taking part in the election after receiving several long prison sentences in the days leading up to the vote.

A nationwide mobile phone blackout on election day and the slow counting of results led to suspicions that the military establishment was influencing the process to ensure Sharif’s success.

“The PTI as a party and political group, despite significant efforts by the civil and military establishment, has retained its vote bank,” said Bilal Gilani, executive director of polling group Gallup Pakistan.

“This shows that the military doesn’t always get its way, that’s the positive side,” he told AFP.

The PPP, whose popularity is largely limited to its Sindh heartland, also performed better than expected.

The PML-N and PPP joined forces with smaller parties to remove Khan from office in April 2022, after his PTI won a slim majority in the 2018 elections.

The former international cricketer then waged an unprecedented campaign of defiance against the military-led establishment that originally backed his rise to power.

Khan was convicted last week of treason, corruption and un-Islamic marriage in three separate trials, among nearly 200 cases brought against him since he was overthrown.

Britain said it noted “serious concerns” about the election, while the United States said “allegations of interference or fraud should be fully investigated.”

The Free and Fair Electoral Network gave the electoral commission a generally positive report card on how it conducted the vote, but said the delay in announcing the results “overshadowed an otherwise orderly election”, raising questions about the result.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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