Pakistani protesters block highways to demonstrate against election results

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Former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party and its affiliates won the most seats in the final tally published on Sunday.

Thousands of protesters have blocked highways and started a daylong strike to demonstrate against the results of last week’s general election in Pakistan.

The demonstrations on Monday follow the announcement of the final results from the February 8 vote, with tensions high amid claims of vote rigging and tampering, and intense uncertainty over the formation of the next government.

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Former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and its affiliates won the most seats in the final tally published on Sunday, securing 95 of 264 seats. Ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party came second with 75 seats.

With no one party winning a majority, complex negotiations are ongoing over forming a coalition government that will pick the country’s next prime minister.

With dozens of constituency results facing challenges in court, Pakistan has weeks of political uncertainty ahead.

Supporters of former PM Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party protest against the alleged skewing of national election results, in Peshawar, Pakistan on February 12, 2024 [Abdul Majeed/AFP]

Amid those tricky talks, controversy persists over allegations of vote rigging. The PTI is also protesting that Khan was not able to run in the election due to criminal convictions, some of which were pushed through just ahead of the vote.

Alongside other parties, the PTI has refused to accept defeat in dozens of constituencies, claiming vote tampering.

Thousands took to the streets over the weekend in Lahore, where dozens were arrested. On Monday, the party organised further protests and a strike.

A government spokesperson in the province of Balochistan, Jan Achakzai, urged protesters to “show grace” by accepting defeat and moving from the highways.

Police had previously warned that they would come down hard on illegal gatherings and cited a Section 144 order, a colonial-era law banning public gatherings.

“Some individuals are inciting illegal gatherings around the Election Commission and other government offices,” a statement from Islamabad’s police force said on Sunday.

Interactive_ALL PM in PAKISTAN SINCE 1988
(Al Jazeera)

“Legal action will be taken against unlawful assemblies. It should be noted that soliciting for gatherings is also a crime,” it said.

A similar warning was also issued in Rawalpindi, where AFP staff saw police fire tear gas at a crowd of PTI supporters picketing an election office.

A gathering of about 200 PTI supporters in Lahore was dispersed quickly after police moved in with riot shields and batons.

Meanwhile, Sharif’s PML-N, which has the backing of Pakistan’s powerful military, and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which came third in the election with 54 seats, are holding alliance talks and wrangling over who would be premier.

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