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Pakistan’s ex-PMs Sharif, Khan both claim victory in controversial election

Pakistan’s former prime ministers Imran Khan (L) and Nawaz Sharif

Pakistan’s former prime ministers and bitter rivals Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan both claim victory in a national election marred by delayed results and deadly militant attacks.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), led by 74-year-old Sharif, managed to secure 71 seats out of the 265 seats in the parliament at the latest count, meaning that it won the most seats by a single party in Thursday’s election.

However, PML-N failed to win a clear majority on its own, prompting Sharif to talk to other groups to form a coalition government. 

“Pakistan Muslim League is the single-largest party in the country today after the elections and it is our duty to bring this country out of the whirlpool,” Sharif told a crowd of supporters gathered outside his home in the eastern city of Lahore on Friday.

“Whoever has got the mandate, whether independents or parties, we respect the mandate they have got,” he further said, adding, “We invite them to sit with us and help this wounded nation get back on its feet.”

This is while candidates affiliated with 71-year-old jailed Khan, whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was barred from the polls and ran as independents, managed to secure 91 seats at the latest count, meaning that he won the most seats overall.

On his X social media account, Khan posted an artificial intelligence-generated message and rejected Sharif’s claim to victory, while congratulating his supporters “on winning the 2024 elections.”

“I trusted that you all would come out to vote – and you honored that trust and your massive turnout has shocked everyone,” said Khan in his audio-visual message, adding that no one would accept Sharif’s claim because he had won fewer seats and because there had been rigging in the polls.

Khan’s supporters had used his physical appearance that was from a genuine video clip recorded last year but mixed it with his AI-generated voice and speech.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated prime minister Benazir Bhutto, secured only 51 seats and reached third place, with the rest seats won by small parties and other independents.

It is reported that PML-N succeeded in reaching an agreement with PPP to establish a coalition government at both the federal and provincial levels.

A party must win 133 seats out of 265 in the National Assembly being contested to form the next government.

Thursday’s election was marred by militant attacks that claimed the lives of at least 28 people in two blasts near candidates’ offices in the Pakistani province of Balochistan.

The first bomb went off in Pishin district, north of Quetta city, killing 16 people, while the second one was detonated in Qila Saifullah to the east, killing 12. Dozens of other people were wounded in the attacks.

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