Imran Khan’s party to sit in Opposition in Pakistan’s Parliament

PTI, Feb 17, 2024, 8:35 AM IST

Islamabad: With its efforts to form the next government going nowhere despite winning the maximum number of seats, beleaguered Imran Khan’s party on Friday decided to sit in the Opposition in the Centre according to the directives of the jailed party founder and former prime minister.

The decision was announced by Barrister Ali Saif of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), a day after the party had named Umar Ayub Khan as its candidate for the prime minister and Aslam Iqbal as chief minister for Punjab.

Talking to the media after visiting the Qaumi Watan Party in Islamabad, Saif said that the party decided to sit in the opposition in the Centre and Punjab under the instructions of party founder Khan.

“We decided to sit in opposition despite the reality that if we received seats according to our votes and the results were not changed then maybe today we might have been in the Centre with 180 seats. We have the evidence that our candidates won,” he said.

It was not clear if the party would participate in the election of the prime minister and Punjab chief minister after the decision to join the opposition ranks.

Earlier in the day, PTI claimed that at least 85 seats won by it in Parliament were snatched in the ‘biggest voter fraud’ in the country’s history and announced plans to hold ‘peaceful’ nationwide protests on Saturday against alleged rigging.

Independent candidates – a majority backed by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) – won 93 of the 265 National Assembly seats that were contested in the February 8 election.

However, PTI’s two main rivals appear on course to form a coalition government after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) formed a post-poll alliance on Tuesday.

The PML-N won 75 seats while the PPP came third with 54 seats. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) has also agreed to support them with their 17 seats.

To form a government, a party must win 133 seats out of 265 contested seats in the 266-member National Assembly.

PTI’s Information Secretary Raoof Hasan and other leaders including Sher Afzal Marwat, Rehana Dar, Shoaib Shaheen and Salman Akram Raja, who challenged their election results before various forums, addressed a press conference here.

Hasan said that 2024 would be remembered due to the “biggest voter fraud” in Pakistan’s history against the party and its candidates.

“According to our estimates, out of 177 [National Assembly] seats which were supposed to be ours, only 92 have been given to us. And 85 seats have been taken away from us fraudulently,” he said.

He said that the party was taking constitutional and legal steps to counter the rigging and get its right.

“We have verified data about 46 seats and it is being compiled for 39 seats,” he said.

Hassan also highlighted the discrepancies between Form 45 and Form 47, which respectively deal with counting in each polling station in a constituency and the overall count of all polling stations.

Hassan claimed there was a huge difference in the numbers of votes polled for National Assembly and provincial assembly seats. He said that the number of rejected votes, in certain cases, exceeded the margin of victory.

PTI leader Shandana Gulzar said that the party bagged 1.25 million votes from Karachi but strangely couldn’t win a single seat.

Party leader and senior lawyer Salman Akram Raja claimed that rigging took place when results were being shifted from the polling station to the offices of returning officers.

‘The results which should have been announced based on Form 45 were completely changed. They rigged the elections on the night of February 8 as much as possible,’ he said.

Separately, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said at a press conference in Lahore that TV channels started showing partially counted results, which began to change as more results were announced after completion of counting on other polling stations.

“Form 45 was floated on the media and social media beforehand when results were still being compiled,” she said.

She said PTI was questioning the result in Punjab where it lost but it was not talking about the results in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa since it won the province.

“It is part of PTI culture to reject elections when it loses,” she said.

Meanwhile, the PTI already declared to hold protests in the country on Saturday and it was also trying to win the support of other parties.

The PTI has called for countrywide protests tomorrow (Saturday) against the “unprecedented, massive [and] brazen rigging” in the elections.

In a post on X, the PTI claimed that its “win of 180 National Assembly seats and a two-thirds majority in Parliament was cut down to half”.

In a related development, Pakistan’s Supreme Court will hear on Monday a petition seeking to declare the recently held general elections null and void, amidst allegations by several parties of poll rigging and deliberate delay in announcing the results.

The petition, which would be heard by a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, seeks the apex court to declare the results of the February 8 polls null and void and get elections re-conducted within 30 days under the supervision and oversight of the judiciary, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.

According to the report, the petitioner, a private citizen, also has made the Election Commission of Pakistan and the federal government as respondents in the case.

In the meantime, a meeting between the PML-N and the PPP coordination committees, which was expected to take place on Friday for finalising government formation in the Centre, has been postponed, according to a media report.

The meeting was reportedly postponed as the PML-N’s committee has yet to consult on the matter with the party’s senior leadership, Geo News reported.

The second round of talks between the two parties to decide on the power-sharing formula between them for the formation of a coalition government will be held on Saturday, it said.

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