Pakistan elections: Protesters launch strike action amid election rigging claims as candidates backed by jailed Imran Khan win most seats

Imran Khan was barred from standing in the election after being convicted on corruption charges

Supporters of imprisoned Pakistani politician Imran Khan have blocked major roads and started a day-long strike in protest at alleged rigging of the country’s elections.

Despite former prime minister Mr Khan's recent imprisonment, independent candidates backed by his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party won 101 of 266 National Assembly seats, but is short of the 169 majority required to form a government. Parties will have to hold talks on forming a coalition government, leaving Pakistan’s political future set for uncertainty for weeks. The new parliament chooses the country’s next prime minister.

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Mr Khan and his party were barred from standing in the election, due to charges brought against Mr Khan, who says they are politically motivated.

Imran Khan was shot in the foot at a political rally in 2022.Imran Khan was shot in the foot at a political rally in 2022.
Imran Khan was shot in the foot at a political rally in 2022.

The Pakistan Muslim League-N party (PML-N) led by three-time premier Nawaz Sharif secured 75 seats, while the Pakistan People’s Party, or PPP, led by Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, came in third with 54.

Mr Sharif is in talks with allies to form a coalition government, while one result has been withheld and another vote was postponed because of a candidate’s death.

Former cricketer Mr Khan and his wife, Bushra Bibi, have both been recently sentenced over charges brought against them. Mr Khan has been held in the Rawalpindi prison since August.

One, in which they were each handed a sentence of 14 years and fined more than $2 million [£1.6m] each, was related to a corruption case, known as Toshakhana, for illegally selling state gifts, including a jewellery set from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

A separate charge, brought by Ms Bibi’s former husband, relates to her and Mr Khan’s marriage being deemed “un-Islamic”. The case, known as “iddat”, relates to the fact they did not wait 40 days after Ms Bibi’s divorce before remarrying.

“This marks the first instance in history where a case related to iddat has been initiated,” Mr Khan said at the time. He faces more than 100 different legal challenges.

Mr Khan, who was previously married to British socialite Jemima Goldsmith and graduated from Oxford University, was ousted from his role as prime minister of Pakistan in 2022 after a constitutional vote of no confidence against him.

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The campaign to force him to leave office was led by the PML-N and the PPP. He subsequently mobilised mass rallies across the nation, claiming he was a victim of a conspiracy by his successor, Mr Sharif, and the US, allegations which were denied by both Mr Sharif and Washington.

Dozens of Khan’s supporters were briefly detained in the eastern city of Lahore over the weekend while protesting alleged vote-rigging. Jan Achakzai, a government spokesman in the south-west province of Baluchistan, urged protesters to “show grace” by accepting defeat and moving away from the highways.

Police in the country have said they could resort to using a section 144 order, a colonial-era law banning public gatherings, in a bid to stop the protests. In 2022, a gunman opened fire at a campaign lorry carrying Mr Khan, injuring him and killing one of his supporters.



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