Why Imran Khan as Pakistan PM is a concern for India

Hannah Rogers
July 26, 2018

Pakistani cricket-hero-turned-politician Imran Khan led in partial results of a general election on Thursday, as the party of his jailed chief rival and ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif PML-N rejected the results as "blatantly" rigged.

There were no official results by 1am local time, but numerous TV news channels showed Mr Khan and other candidates in his Pakistan Justice Movement leading in 100 to 120 districts, while candidates from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N party were reported leading in 42 to 50 districts, and other parties trailed behind.

It remained unclear whether Khan's party would get a simple majority in the National Assembly or have to form a coalition.

In the eastern city of Lahore, capital of Punjab province and the country's political heartland, PTI supporters rejoiced, waving flags and raising party slogans late into the night on Wednesday, as the party celebrated what it considered a sweeping win across the country's 272 National Assembly constituencies.

This time it made it publicly known that it favored Khan in general elections, but did not interfere in the elections itself, he said in response to a question.

Khan has been an outspoken critic of the US-led war in neighbouring Afghanistan as well as China's massive investment in Pakistan, which has racked up millions of dollars in debt to Beijing. "Prime Minister Imran Khan", although his party has yet to officially declare victory.

The election, in which Pakistanis voted for the national assembly, the lower house of parliament, and the four provincial assemblies, marked only the second time in Pakistan's 71-year history that one civilian government has handed power to another in the country of 200 million people.

Counting has been very slow, yet from the outset former cricket star Imran Khan and his party have maintained a commanding lead.

Violence marred the knife-edge election in Pakistan as a suicide bomber killed at least 31 people.

Supporters of cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf waves
Image A supporter of Imran Khan in Pakistan

The party of disgraced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has rejected the results, as have a host of smaller parties, all alleging vote-rigging and manipulation. Khurshid Shah of PPP was quoted as saying, "Our polling agents were not given results and we will not accept it".

"This is the warning bell of a serious threat", said PPP senator Sherry Rehman.

Pakistan's new government will face a mounting and urgent in-tray, from a brewing economic crisis to worsening relations with on-off ally the United States to deepening cross-country water shortages.

"Khan as prime minister is unlikely to challenge the army's authority on policies including national security, defense, and relations with India, Afghanistan, and the U.S.", Shailesh Kumar, Asia director at Eurasia Group in NY, said in a report.

Polls closed at 6pm (2pm BST) on Wednesday but vote counting has been delayed due to computer counting failures and accusations of vote-rigging. The country has been ruled on and off by the military up until then. The army has also dismissed allegations of meddling in the election.

Such a delay could further imperil Pakistan's economy, with a looming currency crisis expected to force the new government to turn to the International Monetary Fund for Pakistan's second bailout since 2013.

She said she remembered Khan's first election in 1997 - "untested, idealistic and politically naive". PML-N alleged that the proceedings and the outcome of the case was influenced by the Pakistani military.

"There's no conspiracy, nor any pressure in delay of the results".

PML-N's campaign had been reinvigorated by the return to Pakistan of Sharif, 68, who was earlier this month convicted and sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison over the purchase of upscale London apartments using offshore companies in the mid-1990s.

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