Tuesday, March 5, 2024
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Pakistan army urges unity as former prime ministers declare victory – BBC News


Nawaz Sharif acknowledged that his party did not have enough seats to govern alone

Pakistan’s powerful army chief has urged the country to leave “anarchy and polarization” behind, as two former prime ministers declared victory in an election that has defied expectations.

With the majority of results, independent candidates linked to jailed former prime minister Imran Khan have won the majority of seats.

But Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister who many believe has the military’s backing, has urged others to join him in a coalition.

Officials also rejected Western criticism of how the election was conducted.

With no clear outcome, General Asim Munir called on all parties to show maturity and unity, saying the politics of polarization “does not suit a progressive country of 250 million people.”

“Elections are not a zero-sum competition where you win and lose, but rather an exercise in determining the mandate of the people,” General Munir said.

Fourteen seats in the National Assembly, all in the vast, sparsely populated province of Balochistan, are still to be determined, but both Khan and Sharif say they have won.

Khan posted an AI-generated video message rejecting his rival’s claim and asking his followers to celebrate. He has been jailed on charges of leaking state secrets, corruption and illicit marriage and his PTI party was banned from participating in the elections.

About 100 of the winning candidates are independents and all but eight are backed by the PTI, the nonprofit Free and Fair Election Network said.

On Saturday, PTI president Gohar Ali Khan said the party would try to form a government and start protesting on Sunday if full election results had not been published by then.

Sharif’s PML-N party won 71 seats and he acknowledged he did not have the numbers to form a government alone, but insisted he could lead the country out of difficult times by leading a coalition.

The PPP of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of assassinated Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, won 53 seats and the rest – the largest number of seats – were won by smaller and independent parties.

But it could be some time before anyone can claim outright victory, although Sharif’s party has begun talks with other parties.

As a result, Pakistan faces a “prolonged period of political instability,” said Dr. Farzana Shaikh of the Chatham House think tank.

He told the BBC that independents linked to Khan were unlikely to be allowed to form a government. Meanwhile, many people feared that any alliance between Sharif and the PPP would result in a “weak and unstable coalition.”

But Dr Shaikh also said the elections also showed growing distaste for the central role of the military in political life.

“Millions of people voted to challenge what many believed was the preferred outcome of Pakistan’s irresponsible military establishment,” he said.

Analysts have described the military as “a state within a state” in Pakistan, and it has influenced national politics and power transitions since Pakistan gained independence from Britain in 1947.

Generals have staged three coups and no prime minister in Pakistan has so far served a full five-year term.


Pakistan army protected polling stations on election day

On Friday, the US, UK and EU expressed concerns about the fairness of the election. UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said there were “serious concerns” raising questions “about the fairness and lack of inclusiveness of the election”.

But Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry rejected this as “not even factual.”

He said the statements did not take into account “the complexity of the electoral process” or recognize the “free and enthusiastic exercise of the right to vote by tens of millions of Pakistanis.”

There were sporadic reports of violence during the elections. Mohsin Dawar, a former member of the National Assembly and leader of the National Defense Movement Party, was shot and wounded in Miranshah, North Waziristan, in an incident in which a member of his party was killed, his party said.

There were also reports of a protest in the port city of Gwadar in southwestern Balochistan province, where some voters alleged irregularities in vote counting.

Additional information by Saher Baloch

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