LAHORE, Pakistan — Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif changed tack Friday and said he would seek to form a coalition government after his party trailed independent candidates backed by his imprisoned rival, Imran Khan, in parliamentary election results.
After results showed candidates backed by Khan, also a former prime minister, leading in the election, a surprise given claims by Khan’s supporters and a national rights body that the balloting was manipulated against him, Sharif told supporters he was sending his brother and former premier, Shehbaz Sharif, to meet the leaders of other parties and invite them to join a coalition.
Initial reports claimed that Khan’s party was leading in the election; however, Sharif acknowledged that they don’t have enough of a majority to form a government without the support of others and invited allies to join the coalition to make joint efforts to pull Pakistan out of its problems.
Sharif had previously rejected the idea of a coalition, expressing his desire for a single party to govern Pakistan for a full five-year term in a rough manner. However, on Friday, he acknowledged the lack of enough majority to govern without the support of others and extended an invitation to allies to join the coalition and collectively work towards pulling Pakistan out of its problems.
Former cricket star turned Islamist politician Imran Khan was disqualified from running in Thursday’s election due to criminal convictions. He contends his sentences and a slew of legal cases pending against him were politically motivated.
Khan’s party’s candidates were compelled to run as independents after they were prohibited from using the party symbol — a cricket bat — to aid illiterate voters in finding them on the ballots.
With 90% of the 266 National Assembly results announced by the election oversight body, candidates backed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party had won 98 seats, while the Pakistan Muslim League party of three-time premier Sharif, had 67 seats.
Despite the lack of a majority, Sharif’s relatives and loyalists appeared on a balcony at his party headquarters, waving to the thrilled crowds below, and people threw rose petals as Sharif arrived to address the party workers.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party chairman, Gohar Khan announced that the party’s count shows securing a total of 150 seats, enough to form a government, despite needing 169 seats for a majority in the 336-seat National Assembly.