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Pakistan elections: Imran Khan rules out alliance with PPP, PML-N and MQM-P as talks continue

PTI-backed independent candidates dominated the elections by winning 93 out of 264 seats, although they can't technically form the government. A coalition seems inevitable even as the PML-N has already snared some of the independents as no parties have won the majority.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Islamabad Published on: February 13, 2024 16:03 IST
Pakistan, Pakistan elections, Imran Khan
Image Source : AP Supporters of Imran Khan protest against alleged vote-rigging in Pakistan's elections.

Pakistan elections 2024: Jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party members were forced to contest as independent candidates in last week's elections, has brushed off the possibility of forming a coalition government with rivals Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) as talks continue over who will become the next premier, reported Geo News.

Although both Imran and Nawaz Sharif claimed victory in the elections, PTI-backed candidates won the highest number of seats, with 93 out of a total of 264 seats for which results were declared. Nawaz's PML-N was the largest party with 75 seats and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto, was second with 54. However, Imran could not become the PM and his party could not form a government as they nominally ran as independents.

While speaking to reporters in Adiala Jail, where he is incarcerated, the former PM announced ex-federal minister Ali Amin Gandapur as his party's candidate for the chief ministerial post of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where his candidates won 84 seats. Imran also said he had directed his party leaders to hold deliberations with other parties except the PML-N, PPP and MQM-P.

"Those who have been brought [to rule] are the biggest money launderers," said Imran, while asserting that he came to know that his party won when Nawaz postponed his press conference. "Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz have lost both elections," he added.

Imran also said he would challenge the election results by approaching the Supreme Court. The vote was marred by a mobile internet shutdown on election day and unusually delayed results, leading to accusations that it was rigged and drawing concern from rights groups and foreign governments.

Imran Khan's role

However, PTI asserted that no democracy can function and no government can be formed in Pakistan without Imran Khan. Senior party leader Latif Khosa described a coalition between PML-N and PPP as a joke and said that the cricketer-turned-politician has to be brought back. "So rid yourself of the misunderstanding that by minusing Imran they will be able to operate a democracy or the government. You will have to bring Imran Khan back," he said.

According to the party, the PTI was cruising with a lead of 170 National Assembly seats before the alleged rigging swung the pendulum in favour of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party. Khosa said that if reserved seats were added to this number, then the PTI would cross the 200 mark in the National Assembly.

The PTI is formulating a plan to form its government in the Centre, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after independent candidates backed by the party. PTI-backed candidates ran as independents due to the party losing the election symbol of ‘bat’ following controversy surrounding its intra-party elections.

Who would become the next Prime Minister?

Meanwhile, PML-N and PPP  opened formal talks late on Sunday to form a coalition government, with a statement from PML-N saying the meeting was "constructive" and "both expressed commitment to putting nation's interest and well-being above everything". PML-N and PPP officials, however, said their talks were snagged over which leader would take the top job. 

"Both sides are interested in forming a coalition, but there is no breakthrough so far. Both parties want the office of prime minister," a senior PML-N figure close to the Sharif family told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. Party insiders say Nawaz isn’t suited to a coalition because of his temperament. His younger brother, Shehbaz, led a coalition after Khan was ousted from power and is regarded as more accommodating.

However, Shehbaz affirmed that Nawaz will become the PM for the fourth time, during a press conference in Lahore. He also said independent candidates are welcome to form the government if they can prove majority and that his party will "gladly sit in opposition benches" if that comes true, Dawn reported.

"If they can show the majority (in the Assembly) then we will gladly sit in the opposition benches and play the constitutional role. If they cannot make a government, then obviously other political parties will make a decision with consensus and field a candidate. This is the constitutional way... we need to move forward like this and finalise the upcoming phase," Shehbaz said, while rejecting allegations of poll rigging by PTI members.

Challenges of a coalition government

Political analysts say the next 48 hours will be crucial because if there is a coalition government formed by the PPP and PML-N it will not last for long. The PML-N has already snared some of the independents who won PTI seats but its total tally of 78 seats in the parliament is not enough to form a government, something it can’t do without forming a coalition government.

Analysts say a coalition government will struggle to tackle multiple challenges - the foremost being seeking a new bailout programme from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after the current arrangement expires in three weeks. A coalition government "would probably be unstable, weak" and "the big loser ... will be the army", said Marvin Weinbaum, Director of Afghanistan and Pakistan Studies at the Middle East Institute in Washington.

The military has dominated the nuclear-armed country either directly or indirectly in its 76 years of independence from Britain but for several years it has maintained it does not interfere in politics.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | Pakistan: Shehbaz may become next PM as Nawaz's temperament will not suit coalition govt, party insiders say

 

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