ISLAMABAD - Former cricket star Imran Khan declared victory Thursday in Pakistan’s parliamentary election that was marred by violence and allegations of fraud, and he pledged to fight corruption and build a nation that bowed to no one.
Khan, who aspires to be the next prime minister, said in a televised address that he wanted good ties with his neighbors, including rival India, and would seek a more equal relationship with the United States.
“Today in front of you, in front of the people of Pakistan, I pledge I will run Pakistan in such a way as it has never before been run,” Khan said in the speech, vowing to wipe out corruption, strengthen institutions he called dysfunctional and regain national pride by developing international relationships based on respect and equality.
Pakistan’s election commission has not yet released final results from Wednesday’s vote, but Khan has maintained a commanding lead, according to projections from many TV stations. It’s still unclear if his Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI, would get a simple majority or have to form a coalition government. Election officials said an official count was expected later Thursday.
Khan said the elections were the most transparent and promised to investigate every complaint of irregularity that his opponents presented.
While Khan’s appeared casual and conciliatory in his speech, his words were laced with passion. He said the United States treats Pakistan like a mercenary, giving it billions of dollars to fight its war on terrorism.
He offered nothing to suggest an improvement in Pakistan’s already testy relationship with Washington since President Donald Trump’s tweets in January that accused Islamabad of taking U.S. aid and returning only lies and deceit.
Khan focused on what he wanted to do for the poor in Pakistan and his vision of a country that bowed to no one, where everyone was equal under the law and taxes were paid by the rich to fund services for the less fortunate.