According to initial, unverified results of the Feb. 8 elections, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed candidates contesting as independents appear to have secured major wins despite allegations of rigging, sporadic violence and a nationwide suspension of mobile-phone services. Stoking uncertainty was the issuance of the first official results by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) at 3 a.m. on Friday morning, roughly 10 hours after polling ended at 5 p.m. This, naturally, triggered complaints about the inordinate and unexplained delay, resulting in speculation of “foul play” to manipulate the outcome. Media outlets, meanwhile, jumped into the fray to fill the information vacuum, indicating the PTI-backed candidates were in the lead.
Initial results issued by the daily Express Tribune—on constituencies reporting 100 percent of polling stations—suggested PTI-backed independents won six seats in the National Assembly, followed by four of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and three of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). Highlighting the confusion, however, BBC Urdu showed PTI-backed candidates and the PMLN tied with four seats each, followed by PPP with three. Daily Dawn, meanwhile, put the PMLN in the lead with four wins, followed by independents with three and PPP with two wins.
As official results were awaited, however, various TV channels highlighted partial results indicating the PTI was leading—though in most constituencies less than 10 percent of polling stations were reporting in. Nonetheless, PTI leader Gohar Ali Khan issued a statement claiming the PTI had already won 150 seats in the National Assembly and was also in a position to form governments in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. He also urged the ECP to issue final results without any further delay. PTI founder Imran Khan’s sister, Aleema Khan, also jumped into the fray, declaring the polls had returned the country to “Naya Pakistan.”
As per routine, the excruciating delay in official results triggered back-and-forth accusations of fraud from various parties. PMLN spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb sought to curb the speculation—to no avail—by maintaining results were “changing as they come in,” and preliminary results should not be relied upon to declare any finality. Regardless of how the final count turns out, it is abundantly clear that the “independents” will play an outsized role in determining who forms the next government; definitely not a “normal” occurrence for elections in Pakistan.