Pakistan election: Army chief urges end to 'polarization'
The preliminary election results show no political party has achieved a simple majority in parliament, and any indications of support from the country's powerful military are being closely monitored
Pakistan needs "stable hands" and must move on from the politics of "anarchy and polarization," the Chief of Army Staff said Saturday.
General Syed Asim Munir's statement came after no party was able to gain a simple majority in parliament in Thursday's general election.
"The nation needs stable hands and a healing touch to move on from the politics of anarchy and polarization," Munir said.
Pakistan's powerful military wields massive political influence, with generals having run the country for nearly half its history.
Three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's party had been expected to win the most seats and according to some analysts had the blessing of the military-led establishment.
Votes still being counted
Independent candidates linked to jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party won most seats.
The PTI's main rival, Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-M), took the second-highest number of seats. Both declared victory victory on Friday.
Munir said elections were "not a zero-sum competition of winning and losing."
Complicating matters, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), headed by Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, has outperformed expectations by securing enough seats to play kingmaker.
With most votes counted on Saturday independents had won at least 99 seats, 88 of them loyal to Khan. Sharif's PML-N took 71 and the PPP snapped up 53. Only 15 of the elected 266-seat National Assembly were still to be announced.
On Saturday, the Army chief said he "wishes that these elections bring in political and economic stability and prove to be the harbinger of peace and prosperity for our beloved Pakistan."
Sharif is looking for coalition partners
Khan was barred from contesting the election after being handed several lengthy prison sentences in the days leading up to the vote. He was ousted from government in April 2022 by a no-confidence vote that Khan said the military had orchestrated.
The United States, Britain, and the European Union expressed concerns about the vote, urging a probe into reported irregularities.
However, Pakistan's foreign office said on Saturday that international comments on the nation's elections ignore the "undeniable fact" that Pakistan had conducted elections successfully.
Coalition talks between Sharif's party and other groups were reportedly underway.
"We don't have enough of a majority to form a government without the support of others, and we invite allies to join the coalition so we can make joint efforts to pull Pakistan out of its problems," Sharif told supporters.
Published: 10 Feb 2024, 3:15 PM