After Pakistan’s Heated Election, Key Parties Lend Support to Imran Khan

A billboard of Imran Khan in Islamabad. The National Assembly has 272 contested seats, and Mr. Khan’s party has done far better than all the others, winning 115 seats.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Several key parties on Saturday began to coalesce around Imran Khan, the cricket star whose political party won Pakistan’s elections, paving the way for him to form a majority in the country’s National Assembly and ascend to the premiership.

It’s not as if any of the rival parties have congratulated Mr. Khan for a race well won. In Pakistan, which is on the cusp of having only its second peaceful civilian transfer of power, that doesn’t usually happen. The losing parties typically cry foul, hold their nose and then step into parliament.

But this election seems to have generated more hard feelings than most. Human rights groups, academics and many others say that Pakistan’s powerful military helped Mr. Khan by arresting and threatening his political rivals in the months leading up to the vote on Wednesday, all but securing his victory.

Video player loading
Imran Khan, a legendary cricket player, is about to become the leader of Pakistan. In a televised speech, he spoke about the change he hopes to bring to the country.CreditCredit...Tehreek-e-Insaf

Western governments have been watching closely. Pakistan, a nuclear power and the world’s sixth-most populous country, continues to struggle with violent extremism.

Many of the leading rival parties here are furious about the election results, but several smaller ones are falling to the side of Mr. Khan, who over the years has undergone a complex metamorphosis from celebrity athlete and international ladies’ man to strident politician.

“We are in a complicated situation,” said Farooq Sattar, a senior leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a party that won six assembly seats.

Mr. Sattar said that based on moral principles, he had “serious reservations” about joining a coalition with Mr. Khan’s party. But, he added, his party would “rather be part of the government than protest on the streets.”

One religious party that fared badly in the election threatened on Friday to stage street protests over the results, but representatives of several larger parties said there was little support for that.

The National Assembly, Pakistan’s parliament, has 272 contested seats and Mr. Khan’s party has done far better than all the others, winning 115 seats.

But 115 seats is still short of an outright majority. Mr. Khan has been holding meeting after meeting, and his party leaders have been furiously making long and ingratiating phone calls to charm another 20 or so politicians to join their side. In Pakistan there are many smaller parties and independents, holding around 50 assembly seats.

Moonis Elahi, a leader of another party, said that he had come to “an understanding” with Mr. Khan’s party and that he was trying to persuade other politicians to join as well.

On Saturday, Mr. Khan’s party sounded supremely confident.

“We already have the support of several winning candidates to form the federal government,’’ said Naeem-ul-Haq, a party official.

He said that all Mr. Khan was waiting for was Pakistan’s president to call the next session of the National Assembly, which should happen by mid-August.

The biggest loser in these elections has been the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the former governing party that saw its parliamentary power reduced to 64 seats. Its leader, Nawaz Sharif, a three-time prime minister, was thrown in jail less than two weeks before the election on corruption charges, damaging the party’s chances. Documents released through the Panama Papers leak helped build the case against Mr. Sharif.

But analysts say that many Pakistani politicians are corrupt and that the security services selectively targeted Mr. Sharif, his family and some of his allies because their leaders had found Mr. Sharif difficult to work with.

His political party has repeatedly called this election unfair, and party leaders had discussed boycotting the parliament.

But it seems the party has come around to accept Mr. Khan’s victory, deciding to participate in the National Assembly as part of the opposition.

One adviser to the party’s leadership said that while the party was still mulling over its options on Saturday afternoon, its large numbers mean that it could give Mr. Khan’s party a tough time in the assembly.

It’s not like Mr. Khan was a quiet loser when his party was badly beaten in Pakistan’s last major elections in 2013. Mr. Khan claimed the vote had been rigged, and his party members led violent protests that tied up Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, for months.

In Other News

© 2020 US News. All Rights Reserved.