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Imran Khan-Backed Independents Lead Polls: Official Results Declared

Photo: AFP

In Islamabad, candidates aligned with imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan were in a tight race with the party of three-time premier Nawaz Sharif. The election results, delayed significantly, fueled allegations of poll rigging. Despite Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) being barred from the election, independent candidates with ties to PTI secured 12 seats so far, trailing slightly behind the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Official results for the 266-member assembly were slow to emerge, causing heightened accusations of irregularities. Unofficial tallies, as reported on local TV stations, indicated independents were leading in many remaining seats. By 10:30 am, 18 hours post-poll closure, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had announced only 37 National Assembly seat results.

The headline from the English-language Express Tribune newspaper emphasized the surprise factor of independents and the defiance of odds by PTI-backed candidates. Analysts had anticipated a predictable outcome, but the delayed results altered expectations. PTI's chief organizer, Omar Ayub Khan, expressed confidence in the party's performance, claiming the ability to form the next federal government with a two-thirds majority.

PML-N, expected to secure the most seats, particularly with the perceived backing of the military-led establishment, remained hopeful, aiming for success in Punjab, a crucial province for government formation. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) performed better than anticipated, with leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressing encouragement at the early results.

The Election Commission attributed the delay to "internet problems" but assured continuous flow of results. The prolonged wait prompted concerns and questions among the public, with speculations about the potential impact on financial markets. The stock exchange index experienced a nearly four percent dip upon opening.

Analysts, including Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, suggested that the delay may indicate attempts to influence the electoral process. Fears of vote tampering and rigging were prevalent, further intensified by a shutdown of the country's mobile phone network on election day, ostensibly for security reasons.

Digital rights activist Usama Khilji noted that the mobile service blackout strengthened the perception of rigged elections by the "deep state." PTI's secretary for information, Raoof Hasan, raised concerns about potential tampering with the results, linking the delay to efforts that might compromise the integrity of the electoral process.

The election, marked by a lackluster campaign and accusations of interference, had over 650,000 security personnel deployed for safety. While there were 51 attacks nationwide, the army reported fewer casualties compared to the 2018 election. The overall atmosphere reflected a similar scenario to the 2018 polls, with the roles reversed, and the shadow of accusations of a "managed democracy" by the military looming over Pakistan's electoral history. 

(Aside from the headline, DXB News Network staff have not made any edits to this story; it is published from a syndicated feed)

Feb. 9, 2024 12:05 p.m. 1353

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