Independent candidates affiliated with imprisoned Pakistani political leader Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have won the most seats in elections for the National Assembly.
Vote counting is ongoing, but the Election Commission of Pakistan announced that independent candidates have won 98 seats so far, with the winners of 22 seats still undetermined. The majority of the independents are affiliated with Khan’s PTI party
Members of the PTI ran as independents after the party was effectively banned last month. The Pakistani Supreme Court ruled that the party could not use its traditional electoral symbol, a cricket bat. Because many PTI supporters in rural areas are illiterate, the symbol would be the only way to identify the party on the ballot for many.
Khan was slapped with three jail sentences last week and barred from holding any public post for ten years. The former premier has been the target of lawfare since being ousted in a US-backed legislative coup in early 2022.
The PTI has been the target of harassment and even abductions of its candidates by pro-military elements that do not wish to see Khan or his party return to power.
The party has also seen restrictions imposed on rallies and media coverage, as authorities ordered journalists and television stations not to mention Khan’s party as part of their election coverage.
The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz Party (PMLN) has won 69 seats, while the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has the third-most with 51 seats.
None of the country’s three major parties will win the necessary 169 seats to form a government on their own, meaning a coalition must be formed to determine the next prime minister.
Khan used an AI-generated video of himself to claim victory in the election from prison, asking his supporters to “now show the strength of protecting your vote.”
Chairman Imran Khan's victory speech (AI version) after an unprecedented fightback from the nation that resulted in PTI’s landslide victory in General Elections 2024. pic.twitter.com/Z6GiLwCVCR— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) February 9, 2024
Khan’s opponent, former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was previously deposed in a coup and spent years abroad to avoid prison on corruption charges. However, Sharif is currently viewed as the military establishment’s choice.
However, some PTI candidates who ran as independents could be pressured to align with other parties when forming a coalition.
According to Michael Kugelman, the director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center, “the military will likely pressure them to do so.”
Sharif’s PMLN may also be able to form a coalition with other parties and exclude the PTI from the government, Kugelman added.