Huge comeback for Imran Khan as PTI storms to victory in Punjab

Imran Khan. Editorial credit: Jahanzaib Naiyyer / Shutterstock.com

Imran Khan has called for early elections in Pakistan after stunning by-election victories in the backyard of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif – Punjab.

The former Prime Minister, who was ousted in a parliamentary no-confidence vote April by what he alleged was a U.S. conspiracy, led his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party to victory in 15 of 20 seats in Pakistan’s most important province.

The result is a major blow for Shehbaz Sharif, who leads the PML-N, and his coalition government in power nationally. The party won just four of the seats holding by-elections, with one going to an independent candidate.

The result is being seen as a foretaste of what could happen in a general election due by October 2023.

Mr Khan has attracted tens of thousands of PTI supporters to rallies since being ousted.

“The only way forward from here is to hold free and transparent elections,” he tweeted on Monday. “Any other way will only lead to increased political uncertainty and further economic chaos.”

He added: “First of all, I want to thank our workers of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf and the voters of Punjab for defeating not only the PML-N candidates, but the entire state machinery, especially the oppression of the police and a completely biased Election Commission.

“I am also grateful to all our allies Muslim League Q, Majlis-i Wahdat al-Muslimeen and Sunni Ittehad Council.”

Media reports in Pakistan suggest voters in Punjab wanted to send a message to the country’s leaders about the economic hardships they are facing. Prices are soaring as the government tries to tackle a foreign debt crisis.

“A bitter taste of unpopular decisions,” read a headline in the influential Dawn newspaper over a front-page analysis.

Maryam Nawaz, Shehbaz’s niece, said her party accepts defeat as “the decision by masses against them.”

Mr Khan blames a U.S.-led “foreign conspiracy” for his removal as prime minister. Washington has denied the claim.

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