Pakistan election: Nawaz Sharif urges rivals to join hands to rebuild nation

The former prime minister, failing to win a clear majority, calls on other parties to form an unity government

Jailed himself, his party banned from contesting—yet former prime minister Imran Khan (photo courtesy @ItxmeZuni/X) has effectively snatched a victory in the 2024 Pakistan elections
Jailed himself, his party banned from contesting—yet former prime minister Imran Khan (photo courtesy @ItxmeZuni/X) has effectively snatched a victory in the 2024 Pakistan elections
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PTI

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif called for a "unity government", as cash-strapped Pakistan appeared to be heading towards a hung parliament, with independent candidates backed by jailed ex-premier Imran Khan's party springing a surprise by winning 92 out of the 224 seats for which results have been declared so far (at 9:30 p.m. on 9 February).

Addressing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supporters at the party's central secretariat in Lahore, the 74-year-old Sharif said his party respects the mandate of all parties, including the independent candidates backed by Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

According to the latest Election Commission data, results of 224 constituencies out of 265 were declared. Independent candidates (mostly supported by the PTI) bagged 92 seats, while PML-N got 63 and the PPP (Pakistan People's Party) 50. Smaller parties secured 19 seats.

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

Overall, 169 seats are needed to secure a simple majority out of its total 336 seats, which include the reserved slots for women and minorities.

Votes are still being counted after the polling on 8 February, which was marred by allegations of rigging, sporadic violence and a countrywide mobile phone shutdown.

Changing his stance of not forging an alliance with any party, Sharif today said that there is a need for all political parties to sit together and form a government to pull Pakistan out of its difficulties.

"We can’t hold elections again and again,” he said. “We were all sitting together yesterday but didn’t address you because the results were not in."

"Our party has emerged as single largest winning party in the country after Thursday’s polls. To steer Pakistan out of crises, we want other parties to join hands to form a coalition government,” said Sharif, the three-time former premier. "Our agenda is only a happy Pakistan and you know what we have done before."

He said that all the institutions should together play a positive role in bringing Pakistan out of this crisis.

"Everyone should sit in harmony and bring Pakistan out of the difficulties," he said in his address, which he described as a "victory speech".

Without naming Imran Khan, Sharif said: “Those who are in a mood to fight, I want to tell them that Pakistan cannot afford this fight. Pakistan needs stability for at least 10 years as this is a matter of the lives of Pakistanis."

He further said he wanted to develop cordial relations with neighbouring countries.


Sharif announced that he has tasked his younger brother and PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif to reach out to the Pakistan Peoples' Party's Asif Ali Zardari, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) chief Fazlur Rehman and Muttahida Qaumi Movement's Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui for the formation of a coalition government.

Meanwhile, PPP co-chairman Zardari has reached Lahore and is likely to meet PML-N leadership regarding the formation of government, according to media reports.

A coalition government led by PML-N had served for 16 months after the ouster of Imran Khan from office in April 2022 as well.

Earlier, PTI chairman Gohar Khan ruled out forging an alliance with the PPP and PML-N, saying his party is in a position to form a federal government on its own.

He claimed that his party was winning 150 National Assembly seats and would be able to achieve the required number of seats to form a government at the Centre.

"We are not intending to form a coalition government with PPP and PML-N," he said. "We will form the government at the Centre and Punjab,” said Gohar Khan, who won NA-10 in the Buner area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. PTI’s former parliament speaker Asad Qaisar also won.

Authorities were earlier moving at a snail's pace on announcing the election results, which in a surprising development showed Khan's PTI-supported independent candidates leading the field.

The ECP finally started updating results at a faster pace after facing a barrage of criticism by the parties, especially the PTI, which alleged that its mandate was being stolen.

Khan, 71, cricketer-turned-politician and founding chairman of the PTI, is behind bars and barred from contesting. PTI candidates are running as independents as they were not allowed to use the party symbol either — a cricket bat.

The polling ended at 5 p.m. on Thursday but the first official result was announced 10 hours later, at 3 a.m. on Friday. The delay irked many and added grist to the rumour mills' speculation of foul play to manipulate the outcome.

The PTI too claimed that it won the elections, while alleging that results were being delayed to rig the outcome.

PML-N leader Ishaq Dar earlier said that the independent candidates, who are emerging victorious in the 2024 general elections, are in contact with the party.

"The independents have contacted us and they will join any party in the next 72 hours as per the Constitution," said the former finance minister.

The interim caretaker government's interior ministry has said that it had reviewed the media and the public’s concerns about the late processing of the results and attributed it to “lack of communication, which was the outcome of mobile services suspension taken to ensure a peaceful election process”.

The long delay in the announcement of results by the ECP created a lot of confusion.

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