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Imran-backed candidates lead but Sharif claims victory | World News

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ISLAMABAD: Independents backed by jailed former PM Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) led in 95 National Assembly seats out of 266, but it was his formerly exiled predecessor Nawaz Sharif‘s PML-N that claimed victory on Friday despite bagging only 64 seats in a poll race bedevilled by allegations of rigging and blatant misuse of military and administrative muscle.
While Sharif usurped the mantle of “single-largest party”, PML-N admitted it wasn’t in a position to form the govt. Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) won 50 seats with results for about 40 still to be declared.
Sharif invited the Imran-backed independents to sit with him and directed his younger brother, ex-PM Shehbaz Sharif, to reach out to PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari and other smaller parties.
“All parties should get together to form a govt,” the three-time former PM said, adding it would have been ideal had his party got a majority.
PTI accused Sharif of speaking “shamelessly” about forming the next govt with fewer seats than its cluster of independents. “The seats shown to have been won by PML-N were stolen and rigged,” it wrote on its official X handle.
“Nawaz Sharif is brazenly trying to steal the election, and it would not be tolerated,” the party said, adding that voters had rejected PML-N and chosen Imran.
Ruling out an alliance with PML-N and PPP, Imran’s party declared it would be able to form a govt. “PTI is winning 150 National Assembly seats and that’s what we require. We are not in contact with PPP or PML-N,” barrister Gohar Ali Khan, the party’s interim chief, said.
He said PTI had a clear lead in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and was primed to form the provincial govt there.
Amid fears of horse trading, Gohar said the winning independent candidates belonged to PTI and they wouldn’t join any alliance in defiance of the party’s whip.
PTI supporters blocked roads and held street demonstrations throughout Friday in parts of Punjab and the southern port city of Karachi in protest against Election Commission of Pakistan’s delay in announcing the poll results.
“We voted, although it turned out to be a selection. We are in the digital age, and yet we aren’t aware of the results nearly 24 hours after polling. Their excuse is that internet was down, but they were the ones who suspended it,” said Samia Jamil, a PTI supporter in Islamabad.
Former National Assembly speaker and Imran’s close aide Asad Qaiser alleged that the results were being altered, but PTI still came out on top.
Rauf Hasan, PTI’s information secretary, said the public had voted for Imran to be Pakistan’s next PM. “Power-wielders (alluding to the military establishment) must learn to respect the people’s choice,” he said, warning against the “deadly consequences” of trying to derail the mandate.

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