Imran Khan’s Elected Candidates to Join Small Party After Election Triumph?

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the party founded by former cricket star Imran Khan, has emerged as a major political force in the 2024 general elections, winning nearly 100 seats in the National Assembly and 116 in the Punjab Assembly, according to unofficial results.

The party also secured a landslide victory in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where it won 81 out of 113 seats, achieving a two-thirds majority in the provincial assembly.

However, the PTI-backed candidates are not officially members of the party, as it was stripped of its election symbol by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) before the polls, following a legal dispute with a rival faction.

This means that the PTI-supported candidates are technically independent and have to join a party within three days of being notified as winners, as per rule 92(6) of the Election Act, 2017.

If they fail to do so, they will lose their chance to get reserved seats in the National Assembly, where 60 seats are allocated for women and 10 for minorities, proportionally among parties.

The ECP will issue the gazette notification of the newly-elected members of the National Assembly within 14 days of the polling day, and will determine the division of the reserved seats before the first session of the assembly.

The PTI-backed candidates have several options to choose from, as they weigh their political future and loyalty to Imran Khan.

One option is to join a small political party that is registered with the ECP and has a distinct election symbol. This would allow them to retain their affiliation with the PTI, while also getting the benefits of being part of a party.

Journalist Majid Nizami, who has been closely following the post-election developments, said that this was the most likely scenario for the PTI-supported candidates.

He said that they were in talks with some small parties, such as the Awami Muslim League (AML) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), to join them and form a coalition with the PTI at the Centre and in Punjab.

Another option is to form a group under any name they like and sit on the opposition benches in the National Assembly. This would allow them to nominate one of their members as the Leader of the Opposition, and challenge the ruling party on various issues.

However, this option would also mean that they would have to forego the reserved seats, and risk losing the support of Imran Khan and his followers.

A third option is to join any other political party that is willing to accept them and offer them attractive positions or portfolios. This could be a tempting option for some candidates who may have personal or ideological differences with the PTI, or who may want to switch sides for political gains.

However, this option would also entail a loss of credibility and trust among the voters who elected them on the basis of their association with the PTI and Imran Khan.

The PTI-affiliated candidates are yet to announce their final decision, as they are still busy brainstorming a strategy on future alliances and consultations with their leader.

The PTI, meanwhile, is confident that it will be able to form the government at the Centre and in Punjab, with the help of its allies and independent candidates.

The party has claimed that it has the support of at least 18-20 newly-elected MNAs from various parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

The party has also expressed its readiness to work with other parties on the basis of a common agenda for the welfare of the country and the people.

The 2024 elections faced claims of cheating by some opposition parties, leading them to reject the results and call for a re-election. The Election Commission (ECP) defended the fairness of the polls but admitted to some technical issues and result transmission delays.

The ECP announced a re-election in certain polling stations on February 15 due to disruptions or cancellations from violence or other reasons. Internationally, some countries congratulated the PTI and Imran Khan, while others expressed concern about alleged irregularities and political instability in Pakistan.

US lawmakers advised President Joe Biden not to recognize the election results until an independent investigation into rigging claims is conducted. The Commonwealth Group, which observed the elections, urged candidates to be gracious in victory and defeat, emphasizing the importance of respecting democratic processes.

The elections sparked widespread interest and debate in the media and among the public, both in and outside of Pakistan. They underscored the need for electoral reforms, including the introduction of electronic voting machines (EVMs), suggested by President Arif Alvi to prevent delays and disputes.

The elections also raised questions about the influence of the military, judiciary, and religious parties in Pakistan's political landscape. Voter preferences indicated a desire for change, accountability, and dissatisfaction with corruption.

Despite challenges such as terrorism and violence, the elections demonstrated the resilience and vibrancy of Pakistani democracy, with people exercising their right to vote. The outcome will shape the country's future, depending on the performance, policies, and cooperation among the new government, opposition, and other stakeholders.

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