Islamabad, Feb 9 (IANS) Pakistan was thrown into a state of crisis on Friday with its election results still undeclared more than 24 hours after polling closed and the voting marred by widespread allegations of rigging, a media report said.
Analysts and candidates widely questioned the integrity of the polls that took place on Thursday, raising concerns that there was an attempt to rig the vote to bring back three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) to power, The Guardian reported.
Sharif was seen to have the backing of Pakistan’s powerful military, which has long been the country’s political powerbroker and has a history of meddling in its elections.
Voters across the country, however, appear to have come out in unprecedented numbers to support Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is presently serving more than a decade in jail.
With more than half the votes counted for the 265 seats in the National Assembly, PTI-backed candidates had won 88 seats, PML-N 60 and the Pakistan People’s Party 46, The Guardian reported.
Many PTI leaders claimed that the true number of seats the party has won is much higher, and there are widespread allegations of rigging as the vote count was delayed.
Protests against the outcome erupted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, where police are alleged to have retaliated with violence, while PTI supporters also came out on to the streets of Lahore, The Guardian reported.
As the day went on, both PML-N and PTI declared victory and there was a growing sense of frustration at the lack of clear results across the country, which is in the throes of the worst economic crisis in its history.
The lead for Khan’s party came as a shock to many. He is loathed by many in the military leadership after he had a dramatic fallout with senior generals and was toppled from power in 2022, The Guardian reported.
The military has since led a sustained attack on Khan and his PTI, making it clear that it would not tolerate his return to power.
Over the course of months, PTI leaders and workers were arrested, their candidates prevented from campaigning and their party symbol of a cricket bat banned.
Khan’s popularity, however, has soared in recent months, as voters have become increasingly frustrated at the military’s brazen interference in politics, The Guardian reported.
Just after the vote counting began on Thursday evening, it looked like a landslide for Khan’s party. PTI-backed candidates across the country, even in Sharif’s stronghold of Punjab and those who were fighting from jail, surged ahead in over 100 constituencies.