and MUNIR AHMED
ISLAMABAD - With Pakistani election officials declaring the party of Imran Khan to be the winner of parliamentary balloting, the former cricket star turned Friday to forming a coalition government, since the party did not get an outright majority.
That will mean finding allies and cutting deals in Pakistan’s rough-and-tumble politics - a task made even more difficult by Khan’s first address to the nation on Thursday in which he took an uncompromising stand against a culture of corruption and big money.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI, won 116 of 269 contested seats in the National Assembly, while his nearest rival, Shahbaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League, won 64 seats, the Election Commission said after two days of tedious vote-counting from Wednesday’s balloting.
Sharif, the younger brother of jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, had earlier rejected the results, charging widespread fraud and manipulation. He met with representatives of other losing parties to decide on a protest strategy.
Khan’s opponents and human rights groups say he won because of widespread fraud and massive manipulation. They allege involvement of Pakistan’s powerful military and its intelligence agency known by the acronym ISI. Khan has dismissed the allegations, calling the election the most transparent in the country’s 71-year history, which has been dominated by military interference, either directly or indirectly.
A European Union team monitored the balloting and its leader Michael Gahler said, “Overall, the election results are credible.”
But the monitors criticized the campaign, saying it was marred by intimidation of some candidates, an effort to undermine the former ruling party and media self-censorship.
There will likely be days of negotiation before the makeup of Pakistan’s National Assembly and four provincial parliaments are clear and Khan can begin implementing his agenda.