Imran Khan claims victory amid poll tampering charges in Pakistan

Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf emerged as the single largest in the National Assembly with its candidates winning 104 seats and leading in 14 others

Imran Khan
Imran Khan

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan on Thursday claimed victory in the general elections after his party emerged as the single largest in the National Assembly with its candidates winning 104 seats and leading in 14 others, amid rival political parties’ claim of “blatant” rigging.

Jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won 58 seats and was leading on four,  while Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) led by former president Asif Ali Zardari won 37 seats and was leading on six, according to the latest unofficial results.

Pakistan's National Assembly comprises a total of 342 members, of which 272 are directly elected whereas the rest - 60 seats reserved for women and 10 for religious minorities - are selected later through proportional representation among parties with more than 5 per cent of the vote. A party can only form the government if it manages to clinch 172 seats in total.

“After a 22-year-long struggle, the almighty God has finally given me the chance to implement the manifesto I had dreamed up over two decades ago,” Khan, 65, said in his first public address after the polls.

In his speech that was broadcast live via video link, Khan promised to make Pakistan's institutions stronger under which everyone will be held accountable. “First, I will be subjected to accountability, then my ministers and so on. Today we are behind (other countries) because there is a separate system for those in power and a separate one for ordinary citizens,” Khan said as he promised to end the VIP culture and convert the existing PM House into an educational institution.

He also vowed to improve the governance and overcome the economic challenges faced by Pakistan.

His speech came as two main parties — PML-N and PPP — raised questions on the transparency of the vote counting process, alleging their polling agents were not allowed to verify vote counts as is mandated by law.

PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif, who was the prime ministerial candidate of his party after the jailing of his brother Nawaz Sharif in a corruption case, rejected the election results, alleging “blatant” rigging. He did not say who he believes could have rigged the polls, but allegations of manipulating the elections have been made against the country’s influential military.

Awami National Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Pak-Sarzameen Party, Muttahida Majlas-i-Amal and Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan also suspected rigging in the counting of votes.

A new government under Imran Khan will need to move quickly to tackle a brewing economic crisis in Pakistan. His key economic challenges:

Reserves slump
Pakistan’s reserves have dropped at the fastest pace in Asia to $9.1 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Reserves are now below the level reached when the country approached the IMF the last two times for a bailout, according to Bilal Khan, a senior economist at Standard Chartered Bank Plc. Low reserves mean the nation has less funds to pay for much-needed imports to keep economic growth going and for  the central bank to maintain  currency stability.

IMF bailout

If Pakistan heads to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for aid, it won’t be the first time. The nation has had 12 loan programmes with the IMF since the late 1980s and may seek between $10 billion and $15 billion from the lender in upcoming months, according to Karachi-based Insight Securities. The loans typically come with conditions such as reigning in fiscal deficits and tighter monetary policy. Pakistan’s central bank has already increased interest rates three times this year to 7.5 per cent.

Trade deficit

The trade gap has widened despite multiple measures to restrict imports and spur exports over the past few months. That’s driven up the current-account deficit by 42 per cent to $18 billion in the year through June. An economic growth boom and billions of dollars in Chinese-built infrastructure has fuelled demand for imports and added to the nation’s debt. Moody’s Investors Service cut the nation’s credit-rating outlook to negative from stable as external balances weakened. The economy is expected to slow for the first time in six years to 5.2 per cent in the year starting July, according to the average of six economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

Tax revenue

One of the structural problems a new government will need to fix is low tax compliance. While Pakistan has increased its tax-to-GDP ratio in recent years to 12.5 per cent in the year through June, that’s still among the lowest in Asia and globally. “I vow to protect taxpayers’ money,” Khan said Thursday. “We will convert governors’ houses into hotels instead of splurging people’s tax money on upkeep of politicians.” Bloomberg