General Asim Munir : Pakistan’s influential military chief General Asim Munir has called for the nation to move away from “chaos and division” as two former prime ministers announced triumph in an election that has exceeded predictions.
With the majority of results available, independent candidates associated with incarcerated former Prime Minister Imran Khan have secured the majority of seats.
However, Nawaz Sharif, another former Prime Minister widely perceived to have the support of the military, has called on others to join him in a coalition.
Officials have also dismissed Western criticism of the election process.
Given the lack of a clear outcome, General Asim Munir has appealed to all parties to exhibit maturity and unity, stating that the politics of division are inappropriate for a progressive nation with a population of 250 million.
“Elections are not a zero-sum competition of winning and losing but an exercise to determine the mandate of the people,” said Gen Munir.
Fourteen National Assembly seats remain undetermined, all located in the vast and sparsely-populated Balochistan province, but both Mr. Khan and Mr. Sharif assert their victories.
Against expectations, the election reveals that Imran Khan’s backing remains robust.
Mr. Khan issued an AI-generated video message rejecting his opponent’s assertion and urging supporters to celebrate. He has been incarcerated on charges of disclosing state secrets, corruption, and an unlawful marriage, leading to his PTI party’s exclusion from participating in the polls.
Approximately 100 of the winning candidates are independent, with all but eight of them enjoying support from the PTI, according to the non-profit Free and Fair Election Network.
On Saturday, PTI chairman Gohar Ali Khan stated that the party would attempt to establish a government and would commence protests on Sunday if complete election results were not released by then.
Mr. Sharif’s PML-N party secured 71 seats, and while he acknowledged lacking the numbers to independently form a government, he insisted on steering the country through challenging times at the helm of a coalition.
The PPP, led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, secured 53 seats. The remaining, and the largest portion of seats, were won by smaller parties and independents.
However, claiming an outright victory may take time, though Mr. Sharif’s party has initiated discussions with other political entities.
As a consequence, Pakistan is grappling with a “prolonged period of political instability,” as noted by Dr. Farzana Shaikh from the Chatham House think tank.
She told that the independents associated with Khan were unlikely to be permitted to form a government. Meanwhile, concerns persist about the potential for a “fragile and unstable coalition” resulting from any collaboration between Mr. Sharif and the PPP.
Dr. Shaikh also highlighted that the election underscored a growing aversion to the military’s central role in political affairs.
“Millions of people voted to defy what many believed was the preferred outcome by Pakistan’s unaccountable military establishment,” she said.
The military in Pakistan has been characterized by analysts as “a state within a state,” exerting influence on national politics and power transitions since the country gained independence from Britain in 1947. The military has orchestrated three coups, and no prime minister in Pakistan has completed a full five-year term to date.
On Friday, the United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union all voiced concerns about the fairness of the election. UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron expressed “serious concerns,” raising questions about the “fairness and lack of inclusivity of the elections.”
However, Pakistan’s foreign ministry dismissed these concerns as “not even factual.” It asserted that the statements failed to consider “the complexity of the electoral process” and did not recognize the “free and enthusiastic exercise of the right to vote by tens of millions of Pakistanis.”
Violence was sporadically reported during the election. In an incident in Miranshah, North Waziristan, Mohsin Dawar, a former National Assembly member and head of the National Defense Movement Party, was shot and injured, resulting in the death of a fellow party member, according to his party.
There were also reports of a protest in the southwestern port city of Gwadar in Balochistan province, where some voters alleged irregularities in the vote counting process.