Pakistan held its general elections yesterday (8 February) to select its future Prime Minister, that was marred by violence and several shooting incidents, leading to an internet shutdown across the country.
Despite expectations, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has yet to declare the results more than 18 hours after the polls closed, a significant delay from the anticipated announcement time of 10 am.
These elections are crucial for three major political forces — the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N) led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and the remnants of the former cricketer and prime minister Imran Khan's political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
The latter was barred from contesting the elections as a unified party, compelling its members to run as independents.
But why are the results taking so long to be declared?
As of 12.20 pm, results for only 66 of the total 199 seats were announced, with independent candidates linked to PTI surprisingly leading the count with 22 seats, with PPP and PML-N trailing by 22 and 18 seats, respectively.
This turn in the election results is unexpected, given the widespread belief that the Pakistan Army had favored the 'selection' of Nawaz Sharif, the head of the PML-N party, as the new Prime Minister, and against Imran Khan.
Khan, who initially won the 2018 elections with the army's support, saw his relations with the military sour in 2021, eventually leading him to his ouster. His arrest in 2023 sparked widespread riots and a political storm in Pakistan, with key PTI leaders and supporters detained on charges of inciting violence.
The Pakistan Army used its indirect influence to ensure that the highly popular Imran Khan does not win elections, so much so, that PTI was barred from contesting elections as a single entity, and was stripped of its election symbol — the cricket bat.
The delay in announcing the results, coupled with the army's tilt towards Sharif, has fueled speculation about potential election tampering, and changing the outcome to suit Nawaz Sharif.
Editorial Associate at Swarajya. Writes on Indian Military and Defence.
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