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Verdict Pakistan Army wanted — Imran Khan surges ahead

Supporters of Pakistani politician Imran Khan, chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, celebrate projected unofficial results announced by television channels indicating their candidates' success in the parliamentary elections in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, July 25, 2018. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

By Shubhajit Roy

Twenty-six years after he won the cricket World Cup in 1992 as captain, Imran Khan, considered to be backed by his nation’s powerful army, widely referred to as “Laadla” (favourite son) — was racing ahead to become the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. In a historic turn of events, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was leading in 102 parliamentary seats — way ahead of his rivals, PML (N) at 64 and PPP at 30, according to Geo News TV channel. In the directly contested 272 seats in Pakistan’s Parliament, 137 is the halfway mark for a simple majority.
If he manages to pull through, a relatively new political party will be ahead of the two established political parties Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML (N)), led by Nawaz Sharif’s brother and former Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and Pakistan Peoples Party, led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
Late tonight, PTI’s Twitter handle tweeted; “Yesssss!!! #JeetayGaKaptaan”, in a reference to his captaincy of the cricket team.
PML(N)’s defeat, after five years of power, means that Sharif’s politically risky move to come back to Pakistan and surrendering before the authorities after being charged with corruption allegations arising out of Panama Papers scandal, did not quite pay off. He, along with his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar, are in Adyala jail.
Politician Khan is an untested commodity across the border and India will be watching his moves very closely as Indo-Pakistan ties have been in deep freeze for over two years now. His outreach to religious fundamentalists has also made Delhi wary about his future moves.
However, Pakistan’s election hardly saw any mention of India during the election campaign. Kashmir was mentioned a few times, including in his party manifesto using the predictable line of a solution as per UNSC resolution.
For India, Sharif was Delhi’s best bet as he had been in favour of a better relationship but was seen to be hemmed in by Pakistan’s Army. Many Pakistan-watchers felt that he was removed in what was described to be a “judicial coup” for challenging Pakistan’s Army on foreign and security policy.
As results are pouring in and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of former president Asif Ali Zardari was also leading in 30 seats, he could play a significant role — in case Imran Khan’s PTI falls short.
Independents were ahead on 25 seats, and many with “jeep” symbols are seen to be backed by Pakistan’s army.
The MuttahidaMajlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of traditional religious parties such as Jamaat-e-Islami led by Qazi Hussain Ahmed, JamiatUlema-e-Islam-Fazl headed by MaulanaFazlurRehman, JamiatUlema-e-Pakistan led by Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani and Tehreek-e-Jafaria led by AllamaSajid Naqvi, was leading in eight national assembly seats.
In one of the constituencies, Mumbai-terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed-led banned Jamat-udDawa’s candidate was leading.
Pakistan Army spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor tweeted videos of Army chief General Qamar Bajwa voting in Rawalpindi and quoted him: “We are the target of inimical forces working against Pak. We’ve come a long way in our comprehensive national effort to fail them. We are united & steadfast to defeat them, and ‘TODAY’ through our ‘VOTES’. Please come out & vote undeterred”.
Later, after the voting ended, Ghafoor tweeted, “Thank you fellow Pakistanis. World has seen your love & respect for Pak Armed Forces…today. U hv rejected all kinds of malicious propaganda. We are strong because we have your unflinching support. Our lives are dedicated to Pakistan and its People. Pakistan wins again!”
Express Opinion | Pakistan goes into an election as army trips government, co-opts judiciary, coerces media into submission
Pakistan’s National Assembly has a total of 342 members, of whom 272 are directly elected whereas the remaining 60 seats are reserved for women and 10 for religious minorities. These are selected later through proportional representation among parties with more than five per cent of the vote. A party can only form the government if it manages to clinch 172 seats in total.
In Mianwali, the results of the 56 of the 370 polling stations show that Imran Khan is leading in the constituency with 29,228 votes while PML-N’s Obaidullah is trailing behind with 6,008 votes.
PML-N chief Shahbaz Sharif, who was hoping to become the next prime minister, was leading with 4,230 votes in NA-249 (Karachi West-II), according to trends. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was leading with 5,218 votes in NA-200 (Larkana I).
According to the Pakistan Election Commission, 3,459 candidates are in the race for 272 general seats of the National Assembly, while 8,396 candidates are running for 577 general seats of the four provincial assemblies — Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. More than 30 political parties have fielded their candidates for the elections.
In the Punjab Assembly, PML-N and PTI were in a neck-and-neck fight with both leading in 54 and 43 seats respectively according to trends available for 119 seats out of 297 seats.
In the Sindh Assembly, PPP was emerging as the single largest party in its traditional bastion. The party was leading in 31 seats according to trends available for 45 seats out of 131 seats. PTI was leading on five seats while PML-N was ahead on one.
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, PTI was leading in seven of 99 assembly seats.
Hours after polling began for the general elections, an Islamic State suicide bomber blew himself up outside a polling station in BhosaMandi area of Balochistan’s provincial capital, Quetta, killing 31 people, including policemen. In separate incidents, four persons were killed in poll-related violence. Clashes erupted between rival parties outside several polling stations, reports said.
Nearly 10.6 crore people were registered to vote. For a smooth polling process, Pakistan’s poll panel deployed around 1.6 million staff at polling stations across the country. It was criticised for deploying the Army both inside and outside polling stations.