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Imran Khan-backed independents in lead as vote count concludes in Pakistan’s polls

Imran Khan-backed independents in lead as vote count concludes in Pakistan’s polls

Vote counting in Pakistan’s general elections have officially concluded with Independent candidates, most of them backed by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan securing more than 100 of the 264 seats, according to the Election Commission.

The independent candidates, most of whom are linked to Mr Khan, won 101 seats, followed by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s party winning 75 seats which has become the single largest party in parliament.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has won 53 seats as vote counting concluded, the election commission’s website noted.

Three of the newly elected independents have announced their decision to join Mr Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, according to the Express Tribune.

A party needs at least 133 seats for a simple majority.

Earlier on Saturday, Mr Khan called on supporters to peacefully protest the delay in announcing the poll results.

Pakistan’s election commission released the tally more than 60 hours after voting concluded in Thursday’s national elections.

It remains to be seen which party forms the government.

Both Mr Khan and Mr Sharif have claimed victory when vote counting was still underway on Saturday, leading to several world leaders raising concerns about Pakistan’s electoral process.

The US Department of State, the British foreign ministry, and the EU separately raised concerns and urged a probe into the reported irregularities in the election.

With Mr Khan jailed ahead of the election, the EU observed in a statement that there was a “lack of a level playing field” due to “the inability of some political actors to contest the elections”.

In an audio-visual message created using artificial intelligence, the jailed former prime minister called on his supporters to celebrate a win that was achieved despite what he calls a crackdown on his party.

In a premature victory speech, Mr Sharif also claimed to have won the election on Saturday.

With the candidates backed by Mr Khan competing without a party, a close aide of the former cricketer-turned-politician told Reuters that a new banner would be announced under which the independents may join.

“And we have no fear of independents going anywhere because these are the people who have struggled for the last 18 months and endured all kinds of torture and oppression,” Zulfi Bukhari said on Saturday.

Mr Sharif is also forming a coalition with PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari – the son of assassinated premier Benazir Bhutto, according to Geo TV.