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Khan's Party Claims To Have Enough Support To Form Pakistan Coalition Government


A supporter stands next to a poster of Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.

Pakistan opposition leader Imran Khan's party claims it has enough support from lawmakers to form a coalition government after taking the highest number of seats in the July 25 election but falling short of a majority.

"People have voted us into power, and God willing, we will form a government," Fawad Chaudhry, the spokesman for Khan's Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI) party told the Associated Press on July 28.

Chaudhry declined to reveal the exact number of commitments, saying details will be provided when the National Assembly meets next week to swear in elected lawmakers.

Pakistan's elections commission on July 28 released final results of the vote, giving Khan’s party 115 of the 269 contested seats.

The closest finisher was the current ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, with 64 seats.

Former President Asif Ali Zardari’s left-of-center of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) secured 43 seats.

The elections were marred by delayed vote counting and violence as well as allegations of rigging by Khan's rivals.

A group of Pakistani political parties on July 27 rejected the results and announced a protest demanding new elections.

Pakistani election officials denied there was widespread fraud.

Results 'Credible' Says Monitor

Michael Gahler, the leader of a European Union team that monitored the balloting, said, "Overall, the election results are credible."

But the monitors criticized the campaign, saying it was marred by intimidation of some candidates, an effort to undermine the former ruling party, and media self-censorship.

Khan has criticized Pakistani liberals and embraced conservative Islam as a politician, promising a "new Pakistan" with an Islamic welfare state and an Islamic justice system. A populist who ran on an anticorruption campaign, he has allied himself with extremist religious groups with ties to militancy.

He has characterized his campaign as a battle against a political elite -- dominated by long-established parties like the PML-N and PPP -- that he accuses of hindering economic development in the impoverished country of 201 million people.

Khan is widely believed to be backed by the army, which fell out with Nawaz Sharif, who looked to curb the military’s traditional dominance in politics.

Olive Branch

Khan has offered an olive branch to arch-rival India, saying the two nuclear-armed nations should resolve a longstanding dispute over the Himalayan region of Kashmir.

In a statement on July 28, India’s Foreign Ministry said it hoped Pakistan's new government would make clear efforts to end militant violence in the region.

"We hope that the new government of Pakistan will work constructively to build a safe, stable, secure, and developed South Asia free of terror and violence," the ministry said in a statement on July 28.

New Delhi frequently accuses Islamabad of arming, training, and sending fighters across the Line of Control to launch attacks on its soldiers in Kashmir, which is claimed by both and split between the two.

"India desires a prosperous and progressive Pakistan at peace with its neighbors," the Indian statement said.

Khan has been an outspoken critic of the U.S.-led war in neighboring Afghanistan and of U.S. drone strikes against militants in Pakistan, but he has vowed that his government will do "its best to bring peace in Afghanistan."

Kabul and Washington accuse Islamabad of providing safe havens for militant groups like the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network that are fighting Afghan and U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on July 29 congratulated Khan on his victory and invited him to visit Kabul.

"I extended an open invitation to Mr Khan and he expressed his wishes to visit Kabul soon," Ghani wrote on Twitter.

"We both agreed to overcome the past and to lay a new foundation for a prosperous political, social, and economic future of both countries,” he added.

Analysts doubt Khan can radically change Pakistan's foreign policy, which is shaped by the military, which has ruled for approximately half the period since the country’s independence in 1947, staging coups three times.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Maashal, Reuters, AP, AFP, and Dawn
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