Pak Army calls for 'unified govt' as Imran Khan-backed candidates win most seats

Army chief general Asim Munir's statement comes a day after former PM Nawaz Sharif, who appeared to be enjoying the backing of the military, calls for a unity government

Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif (photo: National Herald archives)
Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif (photo: National Herald archives)


Pakistan's army chief general Asim Munir on Saturday, 10 February, called for a "unified" government and urged the political leadership to "rise above self-interests" and synergise efforts in governing and serving the people.

Munir's statements came in the wake of the fact that two days after the voting for general elections was held, the country appeared to be headed to have a hung Parliament and a day after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who appeared to be enjoying the backing of the powerful military, called for a unity government.

Springing a surprise, Independents backed by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party won the lion's share of 101 seats in the National Assembly in Thursday's election.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won 73 seats, the Pakistan  Peoples Party (PPP) with 54, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) with 17 and other seats going to smaller parties, as the result of 255 seats out of 265 announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

To form a government, a party must win 133 out of the 265 seats in the National Assembly. Election to one seat was postponed after the death of a candidate.

The powerful Pakistan Army, which has ruled coup-prone Pakistan for more than half of its 75-plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in matters of security and foreign policy.

On Saturday, a statement attributed to the army chief, issued by the media wing of the army, said the free and unhindered participation by Pakistani people to exercise their right of vote demonstrated their commitment to democracy and the rule of law as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan.

"Pakistan's diverse polity and pluralism will be well-represented by a unified government of all democratic forces imbibed with national purpose," he said, adding that elections and democracy are means to serve the people of Pakistan and not end in themselves.

"The nation needs stable hands and a healing touch to move on from the politics of anarchy and polarisation which does not suit a progressive country of 250 million people. Elections are not a zero-sum competition of winning and losing but an exercise to determine the mandate of the people," it said.

Munir said that political leadership and their workers should rise above "self-interests and synergise efforts in governing and serving the people," which was perhaps the only way to make democracy functional and purposeful.

General Munir said that the people of Pakistan reposed their combined trust in the Constitution of Pakistan and it was now "incumbent upon all political parties to reciprocate the same with political maturity and unity."

"As we move forward from this national milestone we must reflect on where the country stands today and where our rightful place should be in the comity of nations," he said and wished that these elections bring in political and economic stability and prove to be the harbinger of peace and prosperity.

He also appreciated the leadership and personnel of law-enforcement agencies for creating a safe and secure environment for the electoral process, despite overwhelming odds.

"The constructive role played by national media, civil society, members of civil administration and judiciary enabled the successful conduct of the largest electoral exercise in national history," he said.

Earlier on Thursday, soon after the voting ended and counting of votes had started, the powerful military had congratulated the nation on the "generally peaceful and violence-free" conduct of the general elections, and expressed its hope that the outcome of the polls would serve as a "catalyst for further strengthening democracy."

A safe and secure environment for the public was ensured through the deployment of 137,000 army personnel and civil armed forces at approximately 6,000 selected "most sensitive" polling stations and over 7,800 QRFs, the statement had said, adding, more than 51 terror attacks were thwarted but in few of the incidents, at least 12 people, including 10 security personnel, were killed in poll-related violence.

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