Lahore: Imran Khan has demanded fresh general elections in Pakistan after his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party routed the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party in the crucial Punjab assembly by-polls, dealing a major blow to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif whose son Hamza Shehbaz is all set to lose his post as chief minister.
The election for the chief minister will be held on July 22 on the Supreme Court’s order and PTI-PMLQ joint candidate Chaudhary Parvez Elahi is likely to be the new chief minister of the politically crucial province Punjab.
According to unofficial results so far, the PTI has won 15 seats while the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of Sharif has just four. An independent candidate also won.
PTI chairman Khan in a tweet on Sunday thanked party workers and voters of Punjab for defeating, what he called, not just PML-N candidates, but the entire state machinery, especially harassment by police and a totally biased Election Commission of Pakistan.
He also thanked the PTI allies PML-Q, Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) and Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC).
The only way forward from here is to hold fair and free elections under a credible ECP. Any other path will only lead to greater political uncertainty and further economic chaos, Khan, who was ousted as prime minister in April after he lost a confidence vote in Parliament, said.
PTI party’s senior leader Asad Umar said Khan would announce the party strategy after a meeting of the core committee on Monday.
He said now the PML-N is left with only one option and that is “immediately calling for fresh general elections.”
The Punjab Assembly currently stands at 369 members: the PTI has 178 lawmakers and its ally PML-Q 10. The PML-N has 167 members while its coalition partners PPP seven, six independents and one Rah-i-Haq Party.
The ruling PML-N of the Sharifs has accepted its defeat and even congratulated PTI Chairman Khan for a ‘landslide victory’ in the by-polls.
“We respect the mandate of the people. Now we ask the PTI-PMLQ to form the government in Punjab,” the Prime Minister’s spokesperson Malik Ahmad Khan told PTI.
To a question about whether Prime Minister Shehbaz would dissolve the National Assembly to call early general elections, he said: “The PML-N leadership will decide about it in consultation with its allies.
However, Prime Minister Shehbaz has said that Khan is unfit to hold public office.
Every speech Imran Niazi delivers shows how unfit he is to hold public office. Under his direct supervision, the PTI has run a sordid campaign to defame national institutions & thus undermine Pakistan. He is rewriting Machiavellian principles of politics in his lust for power, he tweeted on Sunday.
PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz also accepted her party’s defeat. “We should accept our defeat with an open heart,” the daughter of PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif said in a tweet.
She said that in politics, victory and defeat are a part of the game. “We will see our weaknesses and remove them,” she said.
On the other hand she called for introspection following the defeat of the ruling PML-N in its political heartland.
“Tehreek-e-Insaf is winning at least 15 seats. But it is very important for all our people on duty at all polling stations not to leave their place until the official results are obtained from the returning officers, Khan said in a tweet.
Earlier on Sunday, the by-polls on 20 assembly seats of Punjab were held in relatively a peaceful manner amid scattered incidents of violence. A heavy contingent of police was deployed in five ‘sensitive’ constituencies of Lahore and Multan.