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Who won Pakistan’s violent, chaotic election?

Burqa-clad women arrive at a polling station to cast their vote as a police officer stands guard during general election, in Peshawar, Pakistan, February 8, 2024.

Burqa-clad women arrive at a polling station to cast their vote as a police officer stands guard during general election, in Peshawar, Pakistan, February 8, 2024.

REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz

Pakistan went to the polls on Thursday in an election tainted by undemocratic practices – including a suspension of mobile phone services during voting – and violence.

Amid unexpected delays in the tallying of votes, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharifdeclared victory Friday despite acknowledging that his party did not win enough seats to form a government. Sharif said his party won the largest share of the vote and that he would seek to form a coalition government. Meanwhile, reports indicated that independent candidates mostly affiliated with imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan won the most seats so far.

Before Election Day, Pakistan’s military was effectively accused of rigging the process in favor of Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League party with a rampant crackdown on Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party. Sharif and Khan are archrivals.

There’s “no doubt” that the delays in the vote count are part of a military-backed effort to ensure Khan-affiliated candidates don't come out on top, says Pramit Chaudhuri, Eurasia Group’s head of South Asia Research.

“PTI seems to have been able to get through the fog and connect its voters with their independent candidates,” says Chaudhuri, adding, “The results are the generals’ nightmare.”

Ongoing violence. At least 28 people were reportedly killed in Pakistan during voting on Thursday, and the violence continued into Friday, with at least two people killed in clashes between police and Khan supporters in the northwestern Shangla district.



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