New Delhi: Pakistan’s general elections, held on Thursday, February 8, 2024, have resulted in a hung parliament, with no clear majority for any single party. The independent candidates, mostly backed by former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, have emerged as the largest bloc, winning 102 seats out of 265 in the National Assembly. The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz Party (PMLN), led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, came in second with 73 seats, followed by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), headed by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, with 54 seats.
The election results were announced on Sunday, more than three days after the polls were closed, amid allegations of vote rigging, manipulation, and delay by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Several opposition parties, including the PMLN and the PPP, have rejected the results and accused the ECP of being influenced by the military establishment, which is widely seen as favoring Imran Khan. The ECP has denied any wrongdoing and blamed the delay on technical glitches in the electronic result transmission system.
The elections were also marred by violence and security threats, as militant groups carried out attacks on polling stations, candidates, and voters, killing at least 31 people and injuring more than 100⁶. The government suspended mobile and internet services across the country on the polling day, citing security reasons, but this also hampered the communication and reporting of the election process. Several media outlets and journalists complained of censorship and harassment by the authorities, as they faced restrictions on their movement and speech.
The international community has also expressed concern over the credibility and transparency of the elections, as well as the human rights situation in Pakistan. The United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union have issued statements urging the Pakistani authorities to investigate the reported irregularities and ensure that the will of the people is respected. They have also called for the restoration of civil liberties and the protection of journalists and civil society activists.
The political uncertainty and instability in Pakistan have raised questions about the future of the country’s democracy and governance and its relations with its neighbors and allies. Imran Khan, who is currently serving a seven-year jail term for corruption charges, has claimed victory and vowed to form the next government with the support of independent candidates. His close aide and media advisor, Zulfi Bukhari, has said that the party will soon announce the party banner that the independents will be asked to join. However, the PMLN and the PPP have announced that they will form a coalition government with other smaller parties, as they have collectively secured more seats than the PTI-backed independents. Both Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari have delivered victory speeches and accused Imran Khan of being a military puppet.
The PTI has also called for nationwide protests against the alleged rigging and delay in the election results and demanded that the ECP announce the complete results by midnight on Sunday or face demonstrations. However, the party later postponed the protests and said that only peaceful protests would be held outside the offices of the Returning Officers (ROs) where the results were changed. The party has also asked its lawyer Umair Khan Niazi to get in touch with the party-backed candidates for government formation at the federal level.
Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, has urged the political parties and their workers to rise above self-interests and work together for the welfare of the people and the country. He has also assured that the army will support the democratic process and the rule of law, and will not interfere in political affairs. However, many analysts and observers have doubted the army’s neutrality and role in the elections, as they have accused it of meddling in the pre-poll and post-poll scenarios to undermine the civilian government and favor Imran Khan.
Pakistan’s election in 2024 has been one of the most controversial and chaotic in the country’s history, as it has exposed the deep divisions and challenges that the country faces. The outcome of the election and the formation of the next government will have significant implications for the country’s economy, security, and foreign policy, as well as for the region and the world.