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14 Feb, 2024 18:16

Jailed former leader’s party excluded from coalition despite win

Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has alleged widespread vote tampering in last week’s election
Jailed former leader’s party excluded from coalition despite win

Two of Pakistan's major political parties announced on Tuesday that they have agreed to form a coalition government. The accord consigns the party of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan, PTI, to the political wilderness, despite its candidates receiving the most votes in last week’s election.

At a press conference in Islamabad, it was confirmed by the leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), along with four other parties, that a coalition government would be formed in order to “take Pakistan out of difficulty.” 

It was also stated that PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif would be the sole candidate for prime minister – a move backed by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

Khan, who is currently in prison and who was barred from standing in the election, alleged in a Tuesday statement issued by the PTI/Tehreek-e-Insaf party that the vote had been undermined by large-scale electoral rigging.

“I warn against the misadventure of forming a government with stolen votes,” Khan, who was PM from 2018 until his ouster in 2022, said. “Such daylight robbery will not only be a disrespect to the citizens but will also push the country’s economy further into a downward spiral.” 

Pakistan’s caretaker government and election commission deny accusations of vote tampering.

The announcement of the formation of a new executive follows several days of uncertainty across a divided political landscape in the country. Last week’s election results saw candidates backed by PTI win 93 of 266 directly elected seats, but not enough for a majority.

By comparison the PPP won 54 seats and the PML-N took 73, according to the country’s election commission.

The new coalition is of a similar background to the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) formed in 2020 with the intention of removing Khan from office. Following Khan’s exit in April 2022, the PDM ruled with Shehbaz Sharif as leader. However, it struggled to set its agenda amid some claims in Pakistan that it was not suitably addressing the country’s economic crisis.

This time around, Sharif pledged to take “revolutionary steps” to combat a contracting economy in the country of 241 million people as it battles slow growth and record inflation, along with an increase in militant violence.

Pakistan averted a sovereign debt default last year following a $3 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Khan, formerly one of Pakistan’s biggest sports stars, is currently jailed on charges of corruption and revealing state secrets. His party was barred from the election, forcing its candidates to run as independents.