By Aamir Latif and Islamuddin Sajid
Pakistan’s former cricket star Imran Khan is poised to become the new prime minister as his center-right party has emerged as the single majority party in Wednesday’s general elections marred by allegations of “manipulation” and “engineering”.
“This is a historic election. Allah has given me the opportunity to implement what I have dreamt of Pakistan,” an apparently jubilant Khan said in his long-awaited victory speech on Thursday.
“There is a tough task ahead. Winning elections is equally tough but the toughest one is to implement your manifesto,” he said.
“I want to follow the concept of the state of Madinah, which was the first welfare state in the history. My inspiration is to introduce that system of humanity in Pakistan, where all the people -- our laborers, farmers and other weak segments -- have equal rights,” Khan maintained.
Identifying corruption, poverty, illiteracy and unemployment as the core challenges, Khan pledged his would-be government would do its best to overcome these challenges.
He announced that the prime minister house and all the four governor houses would be utilized for the public use.
“I will not live in the prime minister house. I will discuss with my party how to use the lavish prime minister house for the public,” he maintained.
The PTI chief said his government would strengthen its ties not only with its traditional allies like China, Saudi Arabia, and Iran but also with its neighbors like Afghanistan, and India.
He said that Pakistan would do its best to restore peace in neighboring Afghanistan.
“I wish someday the two neighbors have an open border,” he said.
He offered an olive branch to arch-rival India, saying the two countries should avoid blame-game, and try to resolve the core issue of Kashmir.
“Pakistan is ready to normalize ties with India. If India takes one step ( to normalize ties), Pakistan will take two”, he said.
About America, he said his government would look for a balanced relationship with its former ally in so-called war against terrorism.
He pledged the rule of law for all, saying there will be no political victimization under his leadership.
“We are facing the history’s hardest economic challenge. We have a huge trade and current account deficits, our economy is going down. We have to cope with this all,” he added.
Response to rigging claims
Responding to the rigging charges leveled by several opposition parties, Khan said he is ready to address their concerns.
“We are ready to open any constituency. I believe these elections were the fairest one but still we are ready to work with the political parties to address their concerns,” he maintained.
Khan’s PTI, according to unofficial results, is leading on 119 seats out of total 272 general seats of the lower house- the National Assembly- slightly behind a simple majority.
Its closest rival, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) of the three-time premier Nawaz Sharif is leading on 61 seats followed by the center-left Pakistan Peoples Party, which is ahead on 40 seats.
The five-party religious alliance, Muttehida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) has failed to make its presence felt, even in its stronghold northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) and southwestern Balochistan provinces, and is leading only on 12 seats.
The PTI has also emerged as the single majority party in KP for the second consecutive term with 64 seats out of total 99 general seats of the provincial assembly.
The party is, however, neck-on-neck with the PML(N) in Punjab -- the country’s largest province and political power base -- with both parties leading on over 100 seats each on 297 general seats of the provincial assembly.
Wednesday’s elections have conceded a big blow to several key party leaders, who could not retain their traditional seats.
They included PML-N President and three-time Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto, former premiers Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, MMA President Maulan Fazlur Rehman, and Jamat-e-Islami chief Siraj ul Haq.
Shehbaz and Bilawal, however, managed to win from other seats.
Khan is the only leader, who contested from five constituencies -- Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Bannu and his hometown Mianwali -- and won all the seats.
He, according to election rules, can retain only one seat, while by-election will be held on the remaining four constituencies.
Former President and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari also won from Sindh province.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has failed to announce the official results so far heaping the blame on failure of its online result collection system, which reportedly crashed.
The ECP has so far announced only a few official results inviting an ire from the major political parties, which term the delay a calculated tactic to “rig the polls”.
The election body denied the charge claiming that the general elections were “100 percent free and fair”.
According to ECP results, the PTI has won 44 National Assembly seats followed by PML-N (27), PPP (11), and MMA (2).
Pakistan’s mainstream political parties have rejected the elections results terming the Wednesday’s polls “rigged.”
Addressing a news conference in northeastern Lahore city on Wednesday night, Shehbaz said his party “wholly” rejected the results.
“I have not seen this kind of elections during my entire political career. This is not election but selection,” Shehbaz said.
“Our polling agents are being kicked out. We are not being provided certified results by the election commission. This is an open rigging,” he charged.
“I want to warn that this type of actions will be detrimental for the national integrity and the democracy,” he maintained.
“This is a big blow to the democracy,” Shehbaz added.
Senator Mushahid Hussein, a central PML-N leader alleged that the Wednesday’s elections were the “dirtiest” in the country’s political history.
“The whole exercise is aimed at bringing one party into power. The people of Pakistan will not accept that,” Hussain charged without naming the PTI.
Other political and religious parties, including PPP, MMA and Awami National Party (ANP), have also rejected the results.
Addressing a news conference, Sherry Rehman, the PPP leader and opposition leader in the Senate, said: “All the parties were being cornered just to favor one party -- the PTI.”
The MMA chief said he was going to call an all parties conference to devise a joint strategy against alleged rigging.
“We will not accept the rigged results,” he was quoted as saying by local broadcaster Geo TV.
Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the general secretary of ANP, has rejected the “manipulated and rigged results”.
"ANP will not accept the manipulated and rigged results of today’s elections," Hussain told Anadolu Agency.