21 April 2019
Cricket legend Imran Khan gives a speech on Thursday as he declares his party’s victory in Pakistan’s disputed general election. Photo: Screengrab from handout video via Reuters
Cricket legend Imran Khan gives a speech on Thursday as he declares his party’s victory in Pakistan’s disputed general election. Photo: Screengrab from handout video via Reuters

Imran Khan declares victory in Pakistan general election

Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan declared victory on Thursday in Pakistan’s general election amid allegations of vote-rigging from his main opponents.

“God has given me a chance to come to power to implement that ideology which I started 22 years ago,” Khan, 65, said in a televised speech from his house near the capital Islamabad.

Oxford-educated Khan called for “mutually beneficial” ties with the US, and offered an olive branch to Pakistan’s arch-foe India, saying the two nations should resolve their long-simmering dispute over Kashmir, Reuters reports.

In a speech peppered with populist pledges, Khan promised to create jobs for the poor and said he will turn the palatial prime minister’s official residence in the capital into an education facility instead of living in it.

With about half the votes counted, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), or Pakistan Movement for Justice, had a wide lead in the Muslim-majority nation, the country’s election commission said.

His success in Wednesday’s election marks a stunning rise for an anti-corruption crusader who has spent much of his political career on the fringes of Pakistan politics, but now stands on the brink of becoming the country’s prime minister, Reuters noted.

Supporters of jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who accuse Khan of colluding with the army, said the vote count was rigged in what they termed an assault on democracy.

Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and rival Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) both said their party monitors at many voting centers were either kicked out during counting or had not received the official notifications of the precinct’s results, instead being given handwritten tallies they could not verify.

“It is a sheer rigging. The way the people’s mandate has blatantly been insulted, it is intolerable,” Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N president and Nawaz’s brother, told a news conference.

Khan has staunchly denied allegations by PML-N that he is getting help from the military, which has ruled Pakistan for about half of its history and still sets key security and foreign policy.

An Election Commission official told reporters early on Thursday that counting had been delayed by technical failures in an electronic reporting system and the tallying was now being conducted manually. 

By early Thursday evening, a full day after polls closed, he told reporters 82 percent of results had been received. and rejected the allegations of tampering in the vote count.

With 48 percent of the total vote counted, Khan’s PTI was listed by the ECP in its provisional results as leading in 113 of 272 contested National Assembly constituencies.

Sharif’s PML-N was ahead in 64 constituencies, and the PPP, led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto, led in 42 constituencies.

Although Khan still appeared likely to fall short of the 137 seats needed for a majority in the National Assembly, he should have no problems finding coalition partners from smaller parties and independents.

Pakistan’s election monitoring body and European Union observers are on Friday scheduled to deliver their assessments of the conduct of the election.

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