Nawaz Sharif Eyes Coalition Government as PTI-Backed Candidates Secure Majority of Seats

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) candidate for the premiership, has declared his party’s victory in the February 8 general election and expressed his desire to form a coalition government with other parties.

Sharif, who returned to Pakistan in October last year after ending his self-imposed exile in London, addressed a large crowd of supporters in Lahore’s Model Town on Friday and said he had tasked his brother and party president Shehbaz Sharif to hold meetings with leaders of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P).

He said that the PML-N was the largest single party in the country after the elections and that it respected the mandate of all the political parties and independent candidates. He invited them to join hands with the PML-N for the sake of the country’s prosperity and stability.

However, Sharif’s claim of victory was contradicted by the slow and controversial vote count, which showed that independent candidates backed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) were leading with more than 90 seats out of 266 directly elected seats in the National Assembly, while the PML-N was trailing behind with less than 80 seats.

The PTI, led by jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan, has ruled out forming a coalition government with the PML-N or the PPP, saying that it has the support of the majority of the successful independents and that it will form the next government on its own.

The PTI has also accused the PML-N of rigging the election and tampering with the vote counting process, which has been marred by delays, technical glitches, and allegations of interference by the military and the judiciary.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has admitted that it faced some problems in transmitting the results from the polling stations to the central server, but it has rejected the claims of any manipulation or malpractice. It has said that it will announce the official results as soon as possible, even as the unofficial results continue to trickle in more than 24 hours after the end of polling.

Pakistan witnessed the biggest-ever general elections in its history on Thursday, with more than 128 million registered voters, almost half of whom were under the age of 35. More than 5,000 candidates, including 313 women, contested for 266 directly elected seats in the National Assembly and 577 seats in the four provincial assemblies.

The election was held amid tight security and sporadic violence, which claimed at least nine lives across the country. The government also suspended mobile phone and internet services in some areas, citing security reasons, which hampered the communication and transportation of voters and polling staff.

The election was seen as a test of Pakistan’s democracy, which has been interrupted by military coups and political instability in the past. No prime minister in the country’s history has ever completed their full term in office. Sharif, who has served as prime minister three times, was ousted twice by the military and once by the Supreme Court on corruption charges. Khan, who became prime minister in 2018, was removed by a no-confidence vote in 2022 and replaced by a coalition government led by the PML-N. That coalition was dissolved last August and an unelected caretaker government took over until the election.

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