Pakistan election: Imran Khan calls on PTI-backed independents to form coalition with MWM

Rival PML-N party is in also in talks to form government after inconclusive elections

Supporters of Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party protest over alleged irregularities in the national elections. AFP
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Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan called for independent MPs backed by his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party to join the Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen party to form a government, after inconclusive elections last week.

The intervention comes after Pakistan went to the polls last week. Khan's PTI party was banned from taking part in the elections and he was barred from standing while he serves a jail sentence, but pro-Khan independents won 93 out of 266 seats contested in the National Assembly.

That gave the party more seats than those that ousted Khan from office two years ago.

The PTI media team told The National it would form an alliance with the MWM in Punjab province and on a national level, while also teaming up with the Jamaat-e-Islami party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

"Both parties are respectable parties. We had a seat adjustment with MWM and we have always maintained good relationships with Jamaat-e-Islami. So we have decided to merge with them in order to form a united government in KP and go into parliament as a merged party," PTI spokesman Zulfikar Bukhari told The National.

Khan has ruled out forming a coalition with any of the country's other major parties.

The PTI's main rival, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, secured 75 seats in the elections, the most among the country's parties.

Mr Sharif's brother, former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif, president of the PML-N, said pro-Khan independents were welcome to try to form a government if they could prove they held a majority in parliament.

Pakistan's system means a simple majority can be achieved with 169 of the 336 seats in the National Assembly. Only 266 of the 336 seats are contested directly in elections – the remaining 70 are reserved, with 60 for women and 10 for religious minorities.

Those seats are allocated to political parties based on proportional representation of the 266 elected seats. Under the rules, they cannot be allocated to independent candidates.

Independent candidates can join a party up to three days after the country's Election Commission officially declares the result.

Pro-Khan independents may now seek to merge with the MWM, a party that advocates the rights of Shiites in the country, to qualify to secure a share of the reserved seats. The MWM won a single seat in the elections.

If pro-Khan independents are unable to prove they have a majority, the PML-N will lead coalition talks to form a government, Mr Sharif said.

The PML-N is holding coalition talks with the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which came third with 54 seats. The two parties led the coalition that ousted Khan in 2022.

Negotiations have reportedly faltered over who would be prime minister.

"Both sides are interested to form a coalition, but there is no breakthrough so far. Both parties want the office of prime minister," a senior PML-N official told Reuters.

The party has not named its prime ministerial candidate, but officials say the choice will be between Nawaz, 74, and Shehbaz, 72, who held the post for 18 months until August last year.

Nawaz has been involved in Pakistani politics for almost five decades and twice served as prime minister in the 1990s, before returning to the post between 2013 and 2017. He was then convicted of corruption and fled the country, returning from self-exile last year before the latest elections.

Shehbaz was chief minister of Punjab for 15 years before becoming prime minister.

The PPP is led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the latest member of Pakistan's Bhutto dynasty. His mother is former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007. Her father, Zulfikar Bhutto, was a former president and prime minister of Pakistan who was executed in 1979 after a military coup.

Mr Zardari was foreign minister in Shehbaz Sharif’s government and has promoted himself as a new face for the country.

The PTI and its supporters have accused Pakistan's powerful military and political elite of conspiring against the party and supporting the PML-N.

The election last week was marred by accusations of vote rigging and a shutdown of mobile phone services, which was criticised by the PTI.

Khan and his supporters say the charges he faced were a conspiracy led by the military. The former prime minister, who is in Adiala Jail, has been sentenced to 34 years after being convicted in four cases.

He has received several sentences, the latest of which was handed down last week after a district court ruled his 2018 marriage to Bushra Bibi broke the law.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: February 13, 2024, 3:50 PM