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The Next Government in Pakistan is Still Unknown 5 Days After Election

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The Next Government in Pakistan is Still Unknown 5 Days After Election

(CTN News) – Five days after the February 8 elections, Pakistan is still unsure which parties will form the next government and who will serve as Prime Minister.

The elections resulted in a split mandate despite concerns about the impartiality of the environment in which they were held, allegations of major manipulation, and three-day-long disputes about the integrity of vote counts.

Candidates linked with former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) are leading with at least 96 seats despite contesting the election as independents without their electoral symbol, the cricket bat.

They are followed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) of three-time ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which has won 75 seats and is theoretically the single-largest party in the National Assembly, despite winning less than a third of the 266 seats up for grabs on February 8th.

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The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), led by former Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, comes in third with 54 seats.

But can the PTI-backed independents establish or join a government? What are the party’s alternatives, and what happens next in the country?

To create a government, a party or coalition must secure a simple majority of 134 seats out of the 266 that were voted on in the National Assembly.

A coalition can consist of various parties or independents who have won seats.

Those independent candidates can either formally join a party seeking to form a government or forge an agreement with them while maintaining their own identity.

While the PTI-backed independents might theoretically form the core of a government in coalition with other parties to reach the 134-seat threshold, this approach presents significant hurdles.

First, maintaining stability would be challenging. A government based solely on independent legislators is vulnerable to defections and collapse.

Second, as a collection of independents, the PTI bloc would lose access to a portion of the 70 seats earmarked for women and minorities, proportionally distributed among parties represented in the National Assembly.

However, if PTI-backed independents joined another party, they would be subject to the discipline of that parent party, thereby jeopardising their capacity to operate by the PTI’s ideas and strategies.

According to Basil Nabi Malik, a Karachi-based lawyer, the constitution requires that a new National Assembly session be called within three weeks of the elections.

“The law clearly states that the National Assembly shall meet on the 21st day following the day on which the election to the assembly is held, unless sooner summoned by the president,” said the official.

Unless President Arif Alvi calls the session sooner, the 21-day period will end on February 29.

On the day of the session, if the parties have finalised their allies and agreed on a coalition, house members will be invited to vote for the prime minister, speaker, and deputy speaker.

An opposition leader will also be chosen from the parties that have decided not to sit on the treasury benches.

PMLN supremo Nawaz Sharif stated in a speech from the party’s headquarters in Lahore on Friday that he had directed his brother Shehbaz Sharif, a former prime minister, to reach out to other political parties that had won multiple seats in the election to establish a governing alliance.

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The PMLN leadership has already met with PPP counterparts and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) representatives, who won 17 seats in Sindh province.

Still, the parties have not announced whether they intend to ally or any coalition’s contours.

Meanwhile, the PTI has centred its protests on the manipulation of alleged election results.

The party leadership maintains that the actual results of a substantial number of their seats were altered, denying their candidates victory and keeping their seats under the magical figure of 134.

Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari, a senior PTI member, firmly stated that they will not collaborate with any major political parties.

“Our internal party discussions and consultations are ongoing, and we have many options on the table,” he was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera. “A decision to join a party will be made very soon, but it will not be one of the three or four major parties.”

The National Assembly elections saw 13 parties win at least one seat, with six securing a single seat.

If PTI-backed candidates opt to join another party, they must do so within three days of announcing the official results of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The ECP has yet to release the official results.

Kanwar M Dilshad, a former ECP secretary and analyst, said the PTI-backed independents might form a new party in theory, but the registration procedure could take a few days.

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However, this will not aid the PTI in forming a government because no new party would have participated in the current election.

Malik, a Supreme Court counsel, agreed with Dilshad’s assessment: PTI-backed independent candidates can form a new political party, but this will not impact the formation of the upcoming administration.

“It is [also] questionable as to whether such a political party, established after the elections, shall enjoy the constitutional protections enjoyed by other political parties that had been enlisted and registered with the ECP before the elections in question,” he said.

Another senior lawyer, Abid Zuberi, suggested that the independents may declare themselves a ” like-minded ” group. However, such would not be termed a party.

“They can decide on parliamentary matters en masse, but they will be treated as a group of independents, instead of a party, and thus cannot receive the quota of reserved seats,” Zuberi was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera.

While the party’s leader, Imran Khan, has been in jail since August 2023, and they have been subjected to a vast, state-led crackdown since at least May of last year, the most significant blow they have endured is the loss of their electoral emblem.

The ECP accused them of violating the laws governing internal party elections. The party has claimed that this was a choice made to reduce the party’s popularity and influence.

The party could seek a remedy from the country’s Supreme Court, which could reverse the ECP judgement. However, even if the party wins, it is uncertain if the independents it supports will be able to represent the PTI formally in the next National Assembly.

“The PTI must hold an election per the letter and spirit. But I don’t think it will allow the party to be a part of the current parliament since, according to the ECP, it does not exist in terms of election results, said Zuberi, a senior lawyer and former Supreme Court Bar Association president.

Senator Ali Zafar, a senior PTI leader and legal team member, stated that the party was not certain it would receive relief from the Supreme Court over the emblem.

“I believe that the symbol issue is now resolved because it was for the purpose of winning the election. I don’t believe it will have any effect in the post-election environment. Instead, it is an issue of which party the PTI-backed candidates would join,” he told Al Jazeera.

Malik also criticised the ECP’s original decision to remove the sign, claiming that it is unlikely to be overturned anytime soon.

“We also see a lack of urgency in the Supreme Court in fixing this matter for hearing, and it may not be possible to complete this entire exercise before the first session,” he said.

Arsi Mughal is a staff writer at CTN News, delivering insightful and engaging content on a wide range of topics. With a knack for clear and concise writing, he crafts articles that resonate with readers. Arsi's pieces are well-researched, informative, and presented in a straightforward manner, making complex subjects accessible to a broad audience. His writing style strikes the perfect balance between professionalism and casual approachability, ensuring an enjoyable reading experience.

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