Protests in Pakistan after inconclusive election result

Independents backed by former PM Imran Khan emerge as biggest winners in Thursday's parliamentary vote

Pakistan army chief Gen Asim Munir attends a ceremony in Islamabad on November 1, 2022. AP Photo
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The head of Pakistan's armed forces called for “political maturity and unity” on Saturday after independent candidates backed by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan won the most seats after his party was barred from taking part.

Independents won 100 of the 245 seats contested in the lower house of Parliament, according to provisional results declared by the election commission on Friday.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, considered to be the army's favoured candidate, emerged as the biggest party with 71 seats.

Aleema Khan, Mr Khan's sister, said that seats that should have rightfully been won by Mr Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) had been "stolen," and called the results a "revolution" against the government.

Hundreds of Mr Khan's supporters rallied in the northwestern city of Peshawar led by two of his aides who said they had been declared losers despite having won the polls.

Mr Sharif has said that the PML-N would hold talks with other parties including the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which won 54 seats, on forming a coalition government.

“Pakistan’s diverse polity and pluralism will be well-represented by a unified government of all democratic forces imbibed with national purpose,” army chief Gen Asim Munir said in a message of congratulations to all concerned.

The vote for parliament and four provincial assemblies on Thursday followed an election campaign marred by violence and was held amid an economic crisis and deep political polarisation after Khan was convicted in three cases a week earlier and his PTI party barred from having members contest under its symbol, the cricket bat.

Pakistan now needs “stable hands and a healing touch to move on from the politics of anarchy and polarisation which does not suit a progressive country of 250 million”, Gen Munir said.

Mr Sharif and Khan both declared victory as the provisional results emerged on Friday.

Gen Munir called on political parties and their supporters to “rise above self-interests and synergise efforts in governing and serving the people”.

“As the people of Pakistan have reposed their combined trust in the Constitution of Pakistan, it is now incumbent upon all political parties to reciprocate the same with political maturity and unity.”

The US, Britain and the European Union on Friday expressed concerns about the conduct of the election.

Mobile phone services were suspended before polling began in what authorities said was a security measure, while the election commission cited an “internet issue” for a delay in results being announced.

In response on Saturday, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said it was surprised by the “negative tone” of statements on the general election issued by “certain countries and organisations”.

These statements “neither take into account the complexity of the electoral process, nor acknowledge the free and enthusiastic exercise of the right to vote by tens of millions of Pakistanis”, it said.

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