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Pakistan election: UK, US, EU urge probe as both Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif claim victory

Simon Calder’s Travel

The US, UK, and EU expressed concerns and called for investigation into Pakistan’s electoral process as both former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and jailed ex prime minister Imran Khan claimed victory in the general election.

The elections were held on 8 February for 265 seats in the national assembly and the vote counting is underway.

While Mr Khan is in jail, and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has been barred from the polls, independent candidates, most backed by him, have won 99 seats – the most this election.

Mr Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party has won 71 seats with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) winning 53, according to the Election Commission.

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

Mr Khan announced his victory through a pre-recorded audio-visual message created using artificial intelligence.

Pakistan parliamentary election party position

(Election Commission of Pakistan)

“By turning out in such huge numbers and exercising your democratic right of franchise, you have laid the foundation for the restoration of the freedom to exercise citizens’ rights. I congratulate you all on helping us win the elections handsomely,” Mr Khan can be seen saying in the video, where his voice does not seem to sync with his lip movements.

The former cricketer turned politician made the announcement just hours after Mr Sharif also claimed victory prematurely in a speech on Friday, saying his PML-N party emerged as the largest in the results.

Before the elections, Mr Khan was disqualified as a candidate and sentenced to long terms in prison with multiple cases lodged against him although he denies any wrongdoing.

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Britain, the US Department of State, and the EU separately raised concerns and urged a probe into the reported irregularities as both Mr Sharif’s party and Mr Khan claimed victory.

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.”

The US also voiced similar concerns, also condemning “electoral violence, restrictions on the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including attacks on media workers, and restrictions on access to the Internet and telecommunication services,” the US state department…

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