Former cricketer strikes unifying tone after campaign marred by violence and vote that opponents say was rigged
The former international cricket star Imran Khan has declared victory in Pakistans general election, hailing what he described as the fairest vote in the countrys history, despite widespread allegations it was rigged in favour of his Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
In a televised address to the nation from his house in Bani Gala, a wealthy suburb of Islamabad, Khan struck a unifying tone, pledging to rise above personal attacks and lift up the poor.
With half the vote counted more than 15 hours after the official result was due the PTI was projected to win about 120 of the 272 contested seats in the national assembly, leaving it only a few shy of a majority coalition.
Early on Thursday morning, Shahbaz Sharif, the leader of the second-placed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), said his party would wholly reject the result. It is a sheer rigging. The way the peoples mandate has blatantly been insulted, it is intolerable, Sharif said.
Leaders from six major parties alleged that their polling agents workers who keep an eye on the count were evicted from ballot-booths by security officials in contravention of electoral rules.
Khan said: I feel that this election has been the fairest in Pakistans history. If any party has any doubts, we will open the results of those constituencies up for investigation.
Appearing calm, the 65-year-old promised to improve Pakistans governance, widen the tax base and shun the VIP lifestyle of previous rulers. He said he would be ashamed to live in the lavish prime ministers house, and would turn it into an educational institution.
His speech will calm people down a bit, said Asad Liaqat of Harvard University, describing it as Khans best in years and in contrast to the obnoxious victory speech many would have expected.
Although results are not expected to be finalised until late on Thursday evening or early on Friday, the PTI seems likely to make an unprecedented sweep of Pakistan. It stands to control the central government, provincial governments in the crucial province of Punjab and northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as well as holding a dominant position in the southern business capital of Karachi.
This means the party will find it easier to implement policies across the nation.
His first priority needs to be macroeconomic stability, said columnist Mosharraf Zaidi, and addressing the balance of payments crisis that is staring Pakistan in the face.