PML-N constitutes 3-member committee to woo independent poll winners
By News Desk
February 10, 2024 08:54 AM
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has fast-tracked its efforts for form a coalition government at the Centre and the party has constituted a three-member committee to contact independent winners of general elections 2024, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.
According to sources, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif briefed party supremo Nawaz Sharif about his Friday night’s meeting with PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
The party sources said the PML-N leadership has now constituted a three-member committee consisting Senator Ishaq Dar, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Rana Sanaullah for wooing independent winners.
Nawaz Sharif has also tasked Shehbaz Sharif to himself contact independent election winners.
Political makes-and-breaks on the cards
Pakistan faces days of political horse-trading after the final few election results released Saturday showed no clear majority, but a strong performance by independent candidates loyal to incarcerated PTI founder chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan.
Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) defied a months-long crackdown that crippled campaigning and forced their candidates to run as independents with a combined showing in Thursday's election that still challenged their chief rivals.
But after long delays in results that prompted further allegations of vote-rigging, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) declared victory as the party with the largest number of seats.
However, to form a government, the party founded by three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif will be forced to cut deals with rivals and independents.
There were reports late Friday of leaders from other parties holding talks in Lahore.
"We don't have enough of a majority to run the government ourselves, therefore we invite the other parties and candidates who have been successful to work with us," Nawaz Sharif said at his party headquarters in Lahore.
Later, PML-N leaders Shebaz Sharif and Ishaq Dar met PPP’s Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at the Model Town residence of Punjab Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi.
PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, Faryal Talpur and Bilawal Bhutto met with Central President PML-N Shehbaz Sharif in Lahore on Friday night.
On this occasion, both sides exchanged views about formation of a coalition government in the country.
It was agreed in the meeting that in order to achieve political and economic stability in the country, both parties should work together.
The PML-N said it was also in contact with the JUI and MQM-Pakistan for talks on forming a coalition government at the centre.
A slow counting process showed independents had won at least 99 seats -- 88 of them loyal to Imran Khan -- by Saturday morning.
PML-N took 71 and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) snapped up 53, with 15 of the elected 266-seat National Assembly still to be announced.
Minor parties between them shared 27 seats -- including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which took 17 -- that are likely to be of great interest for everyone in coming days.
If PTI's independents join one of them, they can take a share of the further 70 unelected seats reserved for women and religious minorities, which are allocated according to party performance in the contested vote.
Most of the seats won by Imran Khan loyalists were in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where police said at least two PTI supporters were killed Friday and more than 20 wounded when they protested against alleged vote rigging in Shangla district -- the first serious post-election violence reported.
There were also protests in Peshawar and Quetta.
"Our results have been changed," claimed 28-year-old shopkeeper Muhammad Saleem, who joined around 2,000 PTI supporters marching in Peshawar. "The government should recount all of our votes."
- 'Silver lining' -
Nawaz Sharif's PML-N had been expected to win the most seats, with analysts saying its 74-year-old founder had the blessing of the establishment.
Imran Khan was barred from contesting the election after being handed several lengthy prison sentences in the days leading up to the vote.
A nationwide election day mobile telephone blackout and the slow counting of results led to suspicions the military-led establishment was influencing the process to ensure Sharif's success.
"PTI as a party and political group, despite significant efforts by the civilian and military establishment, has held on to its vote bank," said Bilal Gilani, executive director of polling group Gallup Pakistan.
"It shows that the establishment does not always get their way -- that is the silver lining," he told AFP.
The PPP, whose popularity is largely limited to its Sindh heartland, also did better than expected.
The PML-N and PPP joined forces with minor parties to boot Imran Khan from office in April 2022 after his PTI won a slender majority in the 2018 election.
The former international cricketer then waged an unprecedented campaign of defiance against the establishment, which originally backed his rise to power.
Imran Khan was convicted last week of treason, graft and having an un-Islamic marriage in three separate trials -- among nearly 200 cases brought against him since being ousted.
- UK, US concerns over vote -
Britain said it noted "serious concerns" about the election, while the United States said that "claims of interference or fraud should be fully investigated".
Caretaker Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz defended the "difficult decision" to suspend mobile phone services on security grounds. "We were fully aware that suspension of mobile services would impact the transmission of election results across Pakistan and delay the process, however, the choice between this delay and safety of our citizens was quite straightforward," he said in a statement on Friday.
Digital rights activist Usama Khilji said the mobile service blackout "strengthens the popular perception that the elections are rigged by the deep state".
Mohammad Zubair, a 19-year-old street hawker in Lahore, said PTI supporters would not accept a PML-N victory.
"Everyone knows how many seats Imran Khan's independent candidates have won," he said. "They don't have a symbol, or a captain, or a flag, or banners, but still we have won on the field."
With input from AFP.