Independent candidates linked to the jailed former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan defied expectations, outperforming traditional political heavyweights including Nawaz Sharif, in earlier trends. The slow release of official results has triggered concerns about potential electoral manipulation, further muddying the waters in an already tense political environment.
Imran Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), faced exclusion from the elections as a bloc, prompting a strategic pivot towards supporting independent candidates. Despite the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announcing only a handful of results after more than 13 hours of closed polling stations, PTI remained optimistic about the performance of its backed candidates.
Omar Ayub Khan, PTI’s chief organiser, claimed in a video statement that the independent candidates supported by the party could potentially form the next federal government with a two-thirds majority. The delayed announcement of results, blamed on “internet problems” by the ECP, has fueled speculation and concerns about electoral irregularities.
What Next For Imran Khan
Imran Khan’s recent imprisonment has further complicated PTI’s political landscape. With a ten-year ban on holding public office, Imran Khan faces political isolation until 2034. His absence has left PTI in disarray, with key aides either jailed or on the run, weakening the party’s structure.
The court ruling that stripped PTI of its traditional electoral symbol – a cricket bat – and the candidates contesting as independents add another layer of complexity. The PTI is now under the leadership of a little-known lawyer called Gohar Ali Khan.
Possible Scenarios If PTI-Backed Candidates Win Majority
- If independent candidates, backed by Imran Khan’s party, win, they could come under one common banner to form the new government.
- The independent candidates, backed by the former cricket star’s party, can even approach one of the other parties to form a coalition government.
- The new government can approach the courts to reverse three jail sentences handed to Imran Khan.
- The new government can approach the Pakistani election body to reverse its decision to ban Imran Khan from holding public office or contesting elections.
What Next For Pakistan
Electoral rigging has haunted the election process, overshadowing the lacklustre campaign. The voting day shutdown of the country’s mobile phone network for purported security reasons added fuel to concerns of a manipulated electoral process. PTI’s secretary for information, Roof Hassan, raised suspicions of tampering with results, citing reports from party agents in the field.
The unexpected performance of independent candidates, many of whom were endorsed by PTI, raises questions about the formation of the next government. With PTI barred from contesting as a united front, the prospect of a coalition government looms large.
Political analysts had anticipated the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to secure the most seats, given the perceived backing of the military-led establishment. However, local TV channels indicated a poor performance by PML-N, with founder Nawaz Sharif trailing in one constituency and his brother Shehbaz, appointed prime minister after Khan’s ousting in April 2022, falling behind in another.
In the aftermath of the elections, the support of victorious independent candidates becomes crucial for any party aiming to secure the numbers required to form a government.