Jailed former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has claimed victory in Thursday’s general election and called on his supporters to celebrate.
Independent candidates associated with him have won the most seats so far, with the majority of seats declared.
But another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, says his party has become the largest and is urging others to join him in the coalition.
No group or party appears on track to win an overall majority. The final results have yet to be announced.
In a compelling video message on
He is currently in prison after being convicted in cases he believes are politically motivated.
The success of the PTI-linked candidates was unexpected, with most experts agreeing that Mr Sharif – believed to be backed by the country’s powerful military – was the clear favourite.
But the PTI is not a recognized party after being barred from contesting the elections, so technically Mr Sharif’s PML-N is the largest official political group.
So now the political horse trading begins in earnest, meaning it could be a while before anyone can claim outright victory.
In a speech on Friday, Sharif acknowledged that he does not have the numbers to form a government alone. But addressing supporters outside his party’s headquarters in the city of Lahore, he urged other candidates to join him in a coalition and said he could pull the country out of difficult times.
Speaking to the BBC’s Newsnight program on Friday, Mr Khan’s former special assistant Zulifkar Bukhari said: “Knowing Imran Khan and knowing the ethos of our political party PTI, I don’t think we will have a coalition will form a government with anyone. of the main parties.
“However, we will form a coalition… to sit in parliament – not as an independent party, but under one banner, one party”.c
And when asked whether Mr Khan could possibly be released, Mr Bukhari said: “I think once we go to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court, we are very confident that he will be released, and that a lot of the charges – if not all – will be dismissed on legal merits and procedural merits.”
The third largest party appears to be the Pakistan People’s Party led by Bilawal Bhutto, the son of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated in 2007.
As results trickled in, Britain and the US expressed concern during the election about restrictions on electoral freedoms.
British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said Britain has urged authorities in Pakistan to “uphold fundamental human rights, including free access to information and the rule of law.”
In a statement, he further expressed his “regret that not all parties were formally allowed to participate in the elections.”
Meanwhile, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller criticized what he described as “excessive restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly” during Pakistan’s election process.
He also cited “attacks on media workers” and “restrictions on access to the internet and telecommunications services” as reasons to worry about “allegations of interference” in the process.
Many analysts have said that this is one of the least credible elections in Pakistan.
Voters in Lahore told the BBC that the internet outage on election day meant it was not possible to book taxis to vote, while others said they were unable to coordinate when to go to the polling stations with their relatives.
An Interior Ministry spokesperson said the power outage was necessary for security reasons.
Support from the military in Pakistan is seen as important to achieving political success, and analysts believe that Sharif and his party currently enjoy their support despite their past disagreements.
Maya Tudor, associate professor at the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, said the leadership of Imran Khan’s PTI was “shocking” in the context of the country’s past.
“A win would be remarkable; in every other election in Pakistan’s recent history, the military’s preferred candidate has won,” Dr. Tudor explained.
As many as 128 million people were registered to vote, almost half of whom were under the age of 35. More than 5,000 candidates – only 313 of whom were women – contested 266 directly elected seats in the 336-member National Assembly.
Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, Maleeha Lodhi, said Pakistan “desperately” needs political stability to cope with what she described as “the worst economic crisis in its history.”
But hopeful, Ms Lodhi said Pakistan’s voter numbers show “faith in the democratic process”.