Independent candidates, most backed by Imran Khan, lead in Pakistan election race

Live Independent candidates, most backed by Imran Khan, lead in Pakistan election race
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A journalist is silhouetted against the screen as he checks on the live results of the general election at a makeshift media centre at town hall In Lahore, Pakistan, on February 9, 2024. (REUTERS)
Live Independent candidates, most backed by Imran Khan, lead in Pakistan election race
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Updated 09 February 2024
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Independent candidates, most backed by Imran Khan, lead in Pakistan election race

Independent candidates, most backed by Imran Khan, lead in Pakistan election race
  • The party of three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is in second place with 46 seats
  • A party needs 133 parliamentary seats for majority but vote may not produce clear winner

ISLAMABAD: Independent candidates, many of whom were backed by ex-PM Imran Khan’s party, have clinched a majority of parliamentary seats in Pakistan national elections, followed by three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s party, as results of Thursday’s vote continue to trickle in.

The independents, backed by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party after it lost its unifying election symbol of cricket bat, have won 42 seats, according to official results shared by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by around 230pm on Friday.

Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party has secured 34 seats of the National Assembly, lower house of Pakistan parliament, followed by former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) which has secured 27 parliamentary seats.

A party needs 133 seats in parliament for a simple majority but many analysts believe the vote may not produce a clear winner. With the vote count still continuing, a clear picture is likely to emerge later in the day. The main battle is expected between candidates backed by Khan, who has been in jail since August on graft charges, and Sharif, who analysts see as the frontrunner in Thursday’s vote.

However, analysts have raised concerns over the ECP missing its deadlines for the announcement of results after polling closed at 5pm on Thursday, saying any further delays would lead to allegations of result-tampering and manipulation of election, already marred by accusations of pre-poll rigging.

“The delay in results is catastrophic for the credibility of the results of the election,” Mosharraf Zaidi, a political analyst, told Arab News. “It is hard to imagine the election day itself having been better managed and hard to imagine the vote tallying having been worse managed.”

The ECP set a deadline of 2am for the announcement of results in constituencies where polling continued without any delays, while the deadline was 10am on Friday for the constituencies where obstructions were witnessed in the voting process.

Salahuddin Safder, a spokesperson of the FAFEN election observer group, said the delay in the announcement of results “remained a concern” for them.

“We did not receive many results till the first deadline of 2am and [the ECP] even missed the second deadline given in the law which is 10am next morning after the polls,” he noted.

He, however, said that FAFEN’s observers reported no major issues during the process of polling.

Huma Baqai said the social media was clearly indicative of a “recipe for trouble” because the masses, including a sizeable number of Khan supporters, did not have any direction at the moment.

“Their [PTI supporters] leadership is in jails and will probably remain so,” she said. “It’s going to create unrest.”

'PML-N single largest party in center and Punjab'

As results continued to trickle in on Friday, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz said her party was emerging as the “single largest party in center and in Punjab.”

 

 

“As opposed to the false perception deliberately built by a section of media last night, PML-N, Alhamdolillah (praise be to God) emerging as the single largest party in center and in Punjab,” she said on X.

“Some results awaited. MNS (Mian Nawaz Sharif) will head to PMLN HQ for the victory speech as soon as final results are received. Insha’Allah. Stay tuned.”

On Thursday, Sharif dismissed talk of an unclear result in the elections.

“For God’s sake, don’t talk about a coalition government,” he told reporters after casting his vote in Lahore’s upscale Model Town neighborhood. “It is very important for a government to get a clear majority.”

Thursday’s vote was the culmination of an especially contentious election season in which allegations of military meddling took center-stage, casting a shadow over a historic event that marks only the country’s third-ever democratic transition of power. The army, which has ruled for over three decades of Pakistan’s history since independence in 1947, strongly denies interfering in political affairs.

The government’s decision to suspend mobile data services across the country minutes before voting began was also seen by many as an effort to keep opposition voters from getting information or coordinating activities, but the interior ministry said it opted for the blockade to ensure the security of polling stations after at least 28 people were killed in two explosions near election offices in the southwestern province of Balochistan on Wednesday.

Despite the heightened security, 12 people, including two children, were killed in 51 bomb blasts, grenade attacks and shootings by militants, mostly in the western provinces, the military said in a statement.

The victims included five police killed in a bomb blast and firing on a patrol in the Kulachi area of Dera Ismail Khan district in the northwest, authorities said. Two children died in a blast outside a women’s polling station in Balochistan province.

'Peaceful conduct'

Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz on Friday expressed satisfaction over the “generally peaceful conduct” of the elections, under exceptional security circumstances.

“Deployment of hundreds of thousands of regular & civil armed forces, other law enforcement agencies and civilian officials across thousands of square kilometers of varied terrain and harsh weather within a limited time was no mean feat,” he said in a statement shared by his ministry.

“The successful conduct of the mammoth exercise can only be attributed to the collective efforts of all elements of state.”

He said the deaths of 28 people and injuries to 64 others in incidents of violence just a day prior to the elections forced the state to take several measures for ensuring safety of citizens.

“This also included the difficult decision of suspending the mobile phone services across the country to disallow terrorists the means to communicate, coordinate and conduct terrorist operations,” Ejaz said.

“Mobile devices are also instrumental in initiating the trigger mechanisms for modern explosive devices for mass casualties.”

The minister said they were fully aware the suspension of mobile phone services would impact the transmission of election results across Pakistan and delay the process, however, the “choice between this delay and safety of our citizens was quite straightforward and the decision was taken.”

 

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Pakistan send New Zealand in to bat in second T20I

Pakistan send New Zealand in to bat in second T20I
Updated 11 min 40 sec ago
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Pakistan send New Zealand in to bat in second T20I

Pakistan send New Zealand in to bat in second T20I
  • The clear weather is in contrast to Thursday’s first game which was cut short to five-over-a-side before being abandoned
  • Pakistan kept the same eleven of the first game, having handed T20I caps to Usman Khan, Abrar Ahmed and Muhammad Irfan Khan

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan skipper Babar Azam won the toss and opted to bowl in the second Twenty20 international against New Zealand in Rawalpindi on Saturday.
The clear weather is in contrast to Thursday’s first game which was cut short to five-over-a-side before being abandoned after just two balls in New Zealand’s batting due to intermittent rain.
Pakistan kept the same eleven of the first game, having handed T20I caps to batter Usman Khan, spinner Abrar Ahmed and allrounder Muhammad Irfan Khan on Thursday.
New Zealand, missing nine players due to the Indian Premier League, brought in Cole McConchie in place of unwell Josh Clarkson.
The remaining matches are in Rawalpindi on April 21 and in Lahore on April 25 and 27.
Teams
Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Usman Khan, Abrar Ahmed, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Amir, Muhammad Irfan Khan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi
New Zealand: Michael Bracewell (captain), Mark Chapman, Cole McConchie, Jacob Duffy, Dean Foxcroft, Ben Lister, Jimmy Neesham, Tim Robinson, Ben Sears, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi


Pakistani province issues flood alert and warns of heavy loss of life due to glacial melting

Pakistani province issues flood alert and warns of heavy loss of life due to glacial melting
Updated 20 April 2024
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Pakistani province issues flood alert and warns of heavy loss of life due to glacial melting

Pakistani province issues flood alert and warns of heavy loss of life due to glacial melting
  • The country has witnessed days of extreme weather, killing scores of people, destroying property
  • Experts say Pakistan is experiencing heavier rains than normal in April because of climate change

PESHAWAR: A Pakistani province has issued a flood alert due to glacial melting and warned of heavy loss of life, officials said Saturday.
The country has witnessed days of extreme weather, killing scores of people and destroying property and farmland. Experts say Pakistan is experiencing heavier rains than normal in April because of climate change.
In the mountainous northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which has been hit particularly hard by the deluges, authorities issued a flood alert because of the melting of glaciers in several districts.
They said the flood could worsen and that people should move to safer locations ahead of any danger.
“If timely safety measures are not taken, there is a possibility of heavy loss of life and property due to the expected flood situation,” said Muhammad Qaiser Khan, from the local disaster management authority.
Latest figures from the province said that 46 people, including 25 children, have died in the past five days due to rain-related incidents.
At least 2,875 houses and 26 schools have either collapsed or been damaged.
The southwest province of Baluchistan has also been battered by rainfall. It said it had limited resources to deal with the current situation but if the rains continued, it would look to the central government for help.
In 2022, downpours swelled rivers and at one point inundated one-third of Pakistan, killing 1,739 people. The floods also caused $30 billion in damage.
Pakistan’s monsoon season starts in June.


Punjab seeks suspension of cellular services during Sunday’s by-polls in 13 cities

Punjab seeks suspension of cellular services during Sunday’s by-polls in 13 cities
Updated 20 April 2024
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Punjab seeks suspension of cellular services during Sunday’s by-polls in 13 cities

Punjab seeks suspension of cellular services during Sunday’s by-polls in 13 cities
  • By-elections will be held on 21 national, provincial seats in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces
  • Pakistan’s national polls in Feb. were marred by mobile service shutdown, result delays, leading to rigging allegations

ISLAMABAD: The provincial government in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province has requested for the suspension of mobile phone services in 13 cities during the by-elections on Sunday, according to the Punjab home department.
By-elections on 21 national and provincial seats in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan provinces are scheduled to be held on April 21. Electioneering in these constituencies came to an end at midnight on Friday, according to a deadline set by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
In a letter to the interior ministry, the Punjab government requested suspension of mobile phone services in Talagang, Chakwal, Kallar Kahar, Gujrat, Ali Pur Chatha, Zafarwal, Bhakkar, Kasur, Sheikhupura, Lahore, Sadiqabad, Kot Chutta and Dera Ghazi Khan.
“I have been directed to request that mobile Internet services may kindly be suspended on 21st April, 2024 for maintaining law and order situation and to avoid any untoward incident [in the aforementioned areas],” a section office of the Punjab home department wrote in his letter to the interior ministry.
The seats, which are up for grabs in Sunday’s by-polls, were left vacant due to postponement of polls or were vacated by lawmakers, who won multiple seats, in national election in February.
The request by the Punjab home department comes amid expectations of a fierce competition between candidates backed by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and rival political groups.
Pakistan’s national election on Feb. 8 was marred by a mobile service shutdown and unusually delayed results, leading to accusations that the vote was rigged and drawing concern from rights groups and foreign governments.
Several political parties, including Khan’s PTI, and candidates had held protests and challenged many of the results before the ECP. However, the outgoing caretaker government and the ECP had denied allegations of any systematic rigging of the vote.


Police say attack on Japanese nationals in Karachi can be case of ‘mistaken identity’

Police say attack on Japanese nationals in Karachi can be case of ‘mistaken identity’
Updated 21 min 27 sec ago
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Police say attack on Japanese nationals in Karachi can be case of ‘mistaken identity’

Police say attack on Japanese nationals in Karachi can be case of ‘mistaken identity’
  • In the past, Baloch separatists have claimed responsibility for attacks on Chinese nationals in the Pakistani port city
  • However, Friday’s suicide attack on a van was the first incident in Pakistan that appeared to target Japanese nationals

KARACHI: The suicide attack on Japanese nationals in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi could be a case of “mistaken identity” as no group has claimed responsibility for it, a senior police officer said on Saturday.
The Japanese nationals were traveling on Friday in a Hiace van to an industrial area, where they worked at Pak Suzuki Motors, when the suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden vest near the van, according to police.
A police team escorting the vehicle returned fire after coming under attack, killing an accomplice of the suicide bomber. Officials said one of the attackers was identified as Sohail Ahmed, a resident of Panjgur district in the southwestern Balochistan province.
However, Ghulam Nabi Memon, the provincial police chief, said no militant group had accepted responsibility for the attack and it seemed they didn’t intend to attack the Japanese.
“For now, it seems to us to be a case of mistaken identity,” Memon told Arab News. “We are reviewing security protocols. The police and intelligence agencies are making efforts [to arrest the perpetrators].”
In the past, Baloch separatists have claimed responsibility for attacks on Chinese nationals in the Pakistani port city. However, this is the first time that the Japanese have come under such an attack.
A police officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Arab News that police suspected the attack was carried out by the outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). The group has claimed several attacks, including the ones on the Chinese consulate in Karachi, Karachi Stock Exchange, and a suicide attack on Chinese teachers at Karachi University.
A BLA spokesperson didn’t respond to Arab News request for a comment on the attack.
Hours after the attack, Baloch activists shared videos on X, claiming raids were conducted on the homes of their supporters in Karachi.

A police officer, who requested anonymity, confirmed that raids were made to arrest the perpetrators and facilitators of the incident, but declined to share if any arrests were made.
“All I can share is that we are going in the right direction and an important breakthrough will be made soon,” he said.
On Friday, a police handout said the provincial police chief had chaired a high-level meeting, wherein he emphasized the need to establish a dedicated unit for the protection of Chinese nationals.
The police chief also stressed strict implementation of the standard operation procedures (SOPs) regarding the security of foreign delegates and regular issuance of security adviseries by authorities.
“Further discussions centered on enhancing security measures for all Chinese residents, experts, staff, and other foreign guests/delegates in Sindh,” the handout read.
In recent weeks, militants have targeted Chinese nationals working in Pakistan on projects relating to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a major segment of Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, which will connect China to the Arabian Sea and help Islamabad expand and modernize its economy through a network of roads, railways, pipelines and ports in Pakistan.
In March, five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in northwest Pakistan, when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into the bus carrying them to Dasu Dam, the biggest hydropower project in Pakistan, where they worked.

 


Saudi cadet bags gold medal as fresh batch graduates from Pakistan Military Academy

Saudi cadet bags gold medal as fresh batch graduates from Pakistan Military Academy
Updated 20 April 2024
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Saudi cadet bags gold medal as fresh batch graduates from Pakistan Military Academy

Saudi cadet bags gold medal as fresh batch graduates from Pakistan Military Academy
  • Forty-nine cadets from “friendly countries” graduate from Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul, says army
  • The PMA provides initial training to Pakistani cadets and recruits from friendly countries such as Saudi Arabia

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Army awarded the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Overseas Gold Medal to a Saudi cadet in recognition of his performance, as a fresh batch of local and international cadets graduated from the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) on Saturday, the army’s media wing said. 

General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, chairman joint chiefs of staff committee, was the chief guest at the passing out parade of the 149th PMA Long Course at the academy in Kakul. General Metin Gürak, the chief of the Turkish general staff who is on an official visit to Pakistan, was the guest of honor at the ceremony. 

Gen. Mirza reviewed and spoke to cadets at the parade while General Gürak presented the awards to the distinguished cadets, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said. 

“The Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Overseas Gold Medal was awarded to Friendly Country Senior Under Officer Fahad Bin Aqil Al Towarqi Al Fallaj from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the ISPR said. 

The army’s media wing said 49 cadets from “friendly countries” also graduated at the ceremony. The coveted Sword of Honour was awarded to Academy Senior Under Officer Muhammad Nauman Abdullah. 

The President’s Gold medal was awarded to Company Senior Under Officer Muhammad Abdullah Javed of the 149th PMA Long Course, the army’s media wing said. 

“Since its inception, PMA has remained the cradle of leadership and center of excellence for cadets joining the premier institution of Army,” Gen. Mirza was quoted as saying by the ISPR. 

“Over the years, PMA has also trained scores of foreign cadets whose brilliant performance in their respective Armies stands testament to the professional ethos of PMA.”

 The PMA in Kakul, Abbottabad, provides initial training to Pakistan Army cadets and recruits from friendly countries, including Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy fraternal relations, leading the two countries to cooperate in trade, defense and other vital sectors. 

The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and serves as the cash-strapped South Asian country’s largest source of remittances.