What next for banned and jailed Imran Khan

Synopsis

Independent candidates affiliated with jailed former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan have surpassed expectations in recent elections, outperforming established political figures. Amid concerns of electoral manipulation, Imran Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), strategically backed these candidates. With Imran Khan’s imprisonment and PTI’s challenges, the outcomes hold significance for Pakistan’s political future, potentially impacting Imran Khan’s release and PTI’s prospects.

imran-khanAgencies
Most analysts had anticipated the Nawaz Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to win th election, given its perceived support from the military-led establishment.

In a surprising turn of events, independent candidates with ties to the jailed former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan are surprisingly doing well in the recent elections, outshining established political parties led by former PM Nawaz Sharif. Despite earlier projections, the delayed release of official results has sparked concerns regarding possible electoral manipulation, adding to the existing political tensions in the country.

Imran Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), faced challenges leading up to the elections, with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) excluding it as a bloc. Consequently, PTI strategically shifted its support towards independent candidates. Despite the prolonged closure of polling stations and the limited release of results by the ECP, PTI expressed confidence in the performance of its endorsed candidates.

Omar Ayub Khan, PTI’s chief organizer, asserted in a video statement that the independent candidates backed by the party could potentially secure a two-thirds majority to form the next federal government. However, the delayed announcement of results, attributed to “internet problems” by the ECP, has fueled speculations and raised concerns about possible irregularities in the electoral process.

Implications for Imran Khan and PTI

The recent imprisonment of Imran Khan has further complicated the political landscape for PTI. With a ten-year ban on holding public office, Imran Khan faces political isolation until 2034. His absence has left PTI in disarray, with key allies either imprisoned or evading arrest, resulting in a weakened party structure.

The court ruling that deprived PTI of its traditional electoral symbol, a cricket bat, coupled with the candidacy of independents, has added another layer of complexity to PTI’s predicament. Currently, PTI is led by a relatively unknown figure, Gohar Ali Khan.

Potential Scenarios If PTI-Backed Candidates Secure Majority

Independent candidates supported by PTI could unite under a single banner to form the new government.

Alternatively, they may seek coalition arrangements with other political parties.

The prospective government could pursue legal avenues to reverse Imran Khan’s jail sentences and the ban on holding public office.

Additionally, efforts could be made to challenge the ECP’s decision regarding Imran Khan’s eligibility to participate in future elections.

Implications for Pakistan’s Political Landscape

The specter of electoral rigging has overshadowed the election process, casting doubts on its integrity. The suspension of the country’s mobile phone network on voting day, ostensibly for security reasons, has further fueled concerns about potential manipulation. PTI’s secretary for information, Roof Hassan, has raised suspicions of result tampering based on reports from party agents in the field.

The unexpected success of independent candidates, many of whom were endorsed by PTI, raises uncertainties about the formation of the next government. With PTI unable to contest as a unified entity, the likelihood of a coalition government looms large.

Political analysts had anticipated the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to emerge as the frontrunner, given its perceived support from the military-led establishment. However, early indications suggest a lackluster performance by PML-N, with both Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shehbaz trailing in key constituencies.

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Roy Walsh

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