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Pakistani Opposition Party Calls For Probe Amid Claims Of Vote Rigging

Pakistani Opposition Party Protests Against Election Results
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The party of jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, runner-up in the July 25 Pakistani general election, has called for an official investigation into the vote, claiming it was rigged.

On July 29, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) demanded the formation of a "judicial commission" to investigate the results of the election, which gave victory to former cricketer Imran Khan's Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI), although without enough parliamentary seats to form a government.

Khan's party claimed on July 28 that, despite falling short of a majority, it had gained enough support from lawmakers to form a coalition government. It won 115 of the 269 contested seats to PML-N's 64 seats.

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

Sharif has alleged military leadership influenced the country's judiciary to keep him from winning a second term. Military officials have denied the claims, in a country where it has ruled for about half the time since the country's formation in 1947.

"We demand the constitution of a judicial commission to probe incidents that took place on July 25," senior party leader Khawaja Asif told reporters in Lahore. "We will issue a white paper on the election rigging and other incidents."

"PML-N will not accept these elections as legitimate and we are ready to...start movement along with other parties," added Mushahid Ullah Khan, a senior leader, told reporters.

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

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.

'Credible' Election Results

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

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

Pakistani election officials denied there was widespread fraud.

Michael Gahler, 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.

Imran Khan
Imran Khan

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 more than 200 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.

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, which 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.

Sharif Hospitalized

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.

Sharif was transferred from prison on July 29 to a hospital because of a possible heart ailment.

The former leader and his daughter Maryam were arrested on July 13 upon their return to Pakistan from London. They had been sentenced to 10- and seven-year terms in prison, respectively, by a court a week earlier over the purchase of luxury apartments in London in the 1990s.

Sharif, who served as prime minister for three nonconsecutive terms, had returned to his homeland to help jumpstart his flagging party’s fortunes ahead of the election.

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