In a surprising outcome, independent candidates supported by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have emerged as the largest bloc in the National Assembly, according to unofficial results. The PTI-backed independents won 95 seats out of 266, followed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with 82 seats, and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari with 55 seats.
The PTI, which won the 2019 general election, was barred from contesting this election by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on charges of violating the code of conduct and misusing state resources. However, the PTI managed to field its candidates as independents, using a cricket bat as their symbol instead of the official PTI logo. The PTI also faced a media blackout, a nationwide suspension of cellphone networks, and allegations of rigging and intimidation by the military and the PML-N.
Despite these challenges, the PTI-backed independents managed to attract a large number of voters, especially the youth, who were inspired by Imran Khan’s anti-corruption and pro-development agenda. The PTI also benefited from the divisions and defections within the PML-N and the PPP, as well as the poor performance of the incumbent government led by Sharif, who returned from exile in the UK last year after being acquitted of corruption charges.
The PTI leader Imran Khan, who is currently in jail on charges of sedition and treason, hailed the election results as a “historic victory” for the people of Pakistan and a “rejection of the status quo”. He thanked his supporters for their courage and resilience, and vowed to continue his struggle for a “new Pakistan” based on justice, accountability, and democracy.
However, the PTI-backed independents will not be able to form a government on their own, as they fall short of the required 134 seats for a simple majority. They will have to seek alliances with other parties or independents, who may have their own demands and conditions. Moreover, the PTI will not be eligible for the 70 reserved seats for women and minorities, which are allocated according to the party’s share of the total vote.
The PML-N and the PPP have rejected the election results, alleging massive rigging and manipulation by the PTI and the military. They have demanded a re-election under a neutral caretaker government and an independent election commission. They have also accused the ECP of delaying the announcement of the official results, which were expected to be released by Friday morning, but were still incomplete by Saturday evening.
The election results have plunged Pakistan into a political crisis, with no clear winner or loser. The country faces uncertainty and instability, as the parties wrangle over the formation of a government, the legitimacy of the election, and the fate of Imran Khan. The international community has also expressed concern over the credibility and transparency of the election, and urged all parties to respect the democratic process and the rule of law.