Former cricketer turned politician Imran Khan has claimed victory in Pakistan’s 2018 elections amidst violence and accusations of vote-rigging and military interference.
The official results from Wednesday’s voting have not been announced. However, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan(ECP)’s latest count, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has claimed 119 out of the declared 219 seats so far, with a total of 272 seats up for grabs. A total of 137 seats are required for a majority. Votes have been counted in 49% of the stations. The turnout for these elections was between 50% and 55%, according to AFP.
Khan’s supporters have taken to the streets of Pakistan to celebrate this historic victory which marks the first time in decades that Pakistan will be stepping away from the rule of the two dominating national political parties: Pakistan Muslim League Noon (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
Leaders of both the PML-N, PPP and other competing parties have raised their voice against the suspected massive vote-rigging and corruption during the voting process, as well as undue interference and influence by the military, concerns which Khan has repeatedly denied.
Issues were also raised about the delay in the announcement of results: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, leader of the PPP, wrote on Twitter earlier today, “It’s now past midnight & I haven’t received official results from any constituency I am contesting my myself. My candidates complaining polling agents have been thrown out of polling stations across the country. Inexcusable & outrageous.” The ECP denied any accusation of unfair play.
Wednesday’s voting was marked with political arrests, violence at polling stations and concerns about the transparency of the voting process. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has labeled this ‘the dirtiest‘ election in the country’s history. Despite this, people see the 2018 elections as a symbol of a ‘New Pakistan’ (Naya Pakistan), and a sign of rule of law prevailing over the corruption that came to be associated with the Sharif era and PML-N rule.
While PTI is still expected to have to seek coalition partners, Imran Khan claimed victory in a television address and delivered his mandate for the coming five years. He also rejected claims of rigging, saying, “I think this has been the clearest, fairest election Pakistan has ever had.” He also promised to uphold investigations by the opposition as to the transparency of the process on Wednesday, adding, “Today I say, in any constituency you want to investigate, we are ready to stand with you and investigate it.”
In his widely acclaimed address, Khan also thanked the people of the province of Balochistan, who saw a particularly violent election cycle. He said, “There was terrorism in this election. I want to especially praise the people of Balochistan, the kind of difficulties that they had to face. The way they came out to vote, I want to thank all those people. I saw the scenes on TV, the way the elderly and disabled came out in the heat to vote, the way overseas Pakistanis came out to vote … I want to praise them because they strengthened our democracy.”
He also described his perfect Pakistan, based on principles from Islam, the country’s official religion. He said, “Briefly, I want to describe the kind of Pakistan I want to see … look, my inspiration is the Prophet Muhammad, the city of Medina that he founded, how it was based on humanity. For the first time, the state was formed based on humanitarianism. That is my inspiration, that Pakistan should have that kind of humanitarian state, where we take responsibility for our weaker classes.” Critics of Khan had previously berated him for forgoing a humanitarian aspect in his mandate, and he covered that in his speech earlier today.
He made special mention of corruption and the wealth gap in Pakistan, an ideal on which he has based most of his political rallying. He stressed, “No country can prosper when there is a small island of rich people, and a sea of poor.”
Further, Khan called on his opponents and those that had made political attacks on him before to come forward and unite with him, adding that supremacy of law was going to reign supreme over personal battles and political victimization’s. He declared, “We will set an example of how the law is the same for everyone. If the West is ahead of us today, it is because their laws are not discriminatory …. this will be our biggest guiding principle.”
He emphasized on the need to establish businesses, increase investments, create jobs and ensure tax payment, one of Pakistan’s biggest financial problems. In a historic move, he also gave up the PM House and governor houses, saying, “I promise that I will protect the people’s tax money. We will cut all of our expenses. I am telling you here that the PM House, this huge mansion … in a country where there are so many poor people, I would be embarrassed to live there. We will use as an educational institute … all governor houses will be used for the public. We might convert some of them into hotels, as we did in Nathia Gali. My point is that what we have seen in Pakistan so far, the way the ruling elite has lived off the country’s taxes, I will end this.”
Khan also stressed on the need to improve foreign policy relations with China, Afghanistan, US, Iran and India, with whom Pakistan has had long-standing disagreements with since the creation of the young country. He said, “I was saddened in the last few days, how the media in India portrayed me as a Bollywood film villain. It seemed like India feared everything bad would happen if Imran Khan came into power. I am the Pakistani who has the most familiarity with India, I have been all over that country.”
He concluded, “I am saying to you today, that for the first time, Pakistan’s policies won’t be for the few rich people, it will be for the poor, for our women, for our minorities, whose rights are not respected. My whole aim will be to protect our lower classes and to bring them up.”
Separately to Khan’s victory, the 2018 elections are historic as they mark only the second time in Pakistan’s history that one civilian government is turning over power to another.