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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India’s Modi, Qatari emir congratulate Shehbaz Sharif on becoming Pakistan’s PM

India’s Modi, Qatari emir congratulate Shehbaz Sharif on becoming Pakistan’s PM
Updated 10 sec ago
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India’s Modi, Qatari emir congratulate Shehbaz Sharif on becoming Pakistan’s PM

India’s Modi, Qatari emir congratulate Shehbaz Sharif on becoming Pakistan’s PM
  • Shehbaz Sharif was sworn in for a second time as Pakistan’s prime minister on Monday after a contentious election 
  • Pakistan’s relations with India have been fraught since 2019 after New Delhi unilaterally revoked Kashmir’s special status

ISLAMABAD: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, congratulated Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday, a day after Sharif was sworn in as the country’s 24th premier following a contentious election. 

Sharif secured a comfortable win on Sunday over Omar Ayub of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) party, which is backed by former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. He secured 201 votes from Pakistani legislators while Ayub polled 92.

Pakistan’s outgoing president, Dr. Arif Alvi, administered the oath of office to Sharif on Monday. The Pakistani prime minister has since then received congratulatory calls from world leaders, including the Saudi crown prince, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

“Congratulations to Shehbaz Sharif on being sworn in as the Prime Minister of Pakistan,” Modi wrote on social media platform X. 

Al-Thani also felicitated Sharif on becoming Pakistan’s prime minister for a second time through a cable, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. 

“The emir, who sent a cable of congratulations to the prime minister, wished him success and for further development and growth of bilateral relations, according to the state-run Qatar News Agency,” the report said. 

The disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir has been a bone of contention between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan since 1947, when the two countries gained independence from British colonial India following a violent partition of the sub-continent. 

The picturesque valley is administered in parts by both countries, though they claim it in full. A sliver of the territory is also held by China. Pakistan and India have fought three full-scale wars in 1948, 1965 and 1971. Two of these wars were over Kashmir. 

India accuses Pakistan of supporting a decades-old armed rebellion in the part of Kashmir that is under its authority. Pakistan denies the allegation and calls for a plebiscite for the people of the region. Islamabad says it provides only diplomatic support for the region’s struggle for self-determination.

Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with India in August 2019 after New Delhi scrapped the special status of Indian-administered Kashmir, which gave it semi-autonomy. 

Pakistan’s newly elected prime minister and his older brother, Nawaz Sharif, are seen as close to New Delhi by political analysts. Sharif’s older brother, who was elected Pakistan’s prime minister thrice, had sought to build economic and trade ties with India during his previous tenures. 

In 2014, Nawaz Sharif traveled to New Delhi as Pakistan’s prime minister to attend Modi’s oath-taking ceremony. Modi, in return, made a surprise trip to Pakistan a year after taking office to attend a Sharif family wedding in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore. 
 


Formidable Multan lock horns with Peshawar in PSL 2024 clash today

Formidable Multan lock horns with Peshawar in PSL 2024 clash today
Updated 05 March 2024
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Formidable Multan lock horns with Peshawar in PSL 2024 clash today

Formidable Multan lock horns with Peshawar in PSL 2024 clash today
  • Both sides to face each other at Rawalpindi pitch, known to offer little assistance to bowlers
  • Table-toppers Multan Sultans have already qualified for the Pakistan Super League 2024 playoffs

ISLAMABAD: Table-toppers Multan Sultans will lock horns with the “Yellow Storm” Peshawar Zalmi today, Tuesday, in match number 21 of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2024 clash at Rawalpindi. 

Zalmi will look to shrug off Monday night’s defeat at the hands of Islamabad United as they face much tougher opponents in the Sultans today. Skipper Muhammad Rizwan’s side has won six out of the seven matches it has played in this year’s PSL. The only loss suffered by the Sultans was at the hands of Zalmi, when the two sides met on Feb. 23. 

“Thank you, Zalmi fans, for the incredible support at the Pindi Cricket Stadium,” Zalmi wrote in an Instagram post. “Looking forward to your continued energy in our enxt game against the Sultans.”

The Rawalpindi pitch is known for offering little assistance to the bowlers, and a lot to the batters. In Saim Ayub, skipper Babar Azam, Asif Ali, Rovman Powell, Haseebullah Khan and Mohammad Haris, Zalmi has a lot of firepower within its ranks to set an imposing target for the Sultans. 

However, the Sultans have a balanced side with impressive spinners and explosive batters at their disposal. The side opens with batters Usman Khan and Rizwan, with Reeza Hendricks, Tayyab Tahir and Iftikhar Ahmed available as impressive batting options for the squad. 

David Willey, Usama Mir and Mohammad Ali have proven to be useful talents in the bowling department, winning games after putting the opposition under pressure.

The Sultans have 12 points from seven matches and have already qualified for the playoffs. Zalmi, on the other hand, have seven points from seven matches with a net run rate of -0.480.

 The match will commence at 7:00 p.m.

Playing XIs (probable)

Multan Sultans: Muhammad Rizwan (captain), Dawid Malan, Reeza Hendricks, Yasir Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, David Willey, Usama Mir, Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Ali, Shahnawaz Dahani

Peshawar Zalmi: Saim Ayub, Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Haris, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Rovman Powell, Asif Ali, Aamer Jamal, Luke Wood, Mohammad Zeeshan, Waqar Salamkheil, Salman Irshad 
 


US says ready to engage with PM Sharif’s government to advance ‘shared interests’

US says ready to engage with PM Sharif’s government to advance ‘shared interests’
Updated 20 min 13 sec ago
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US says ready to engage with PM Sharif’s government to advance ‘shared interests’

US says ready to engage with PM Sharif’s government to advance ‘shared interests’
  • Shehbaz Sharif, 72, was sworn in as Pakistan’s new prime minister on Monday after a contentious election
  • US State Department spokesperson says Washington values “longstanding partnership” with Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Washington will engage with newly elected Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government to advance both countries’ “shared interests,” the US State Department spokesperson said this week a day after Pakistan’s newly elected premier was sworn in. 

Once close allies during the Cold War, relations between Pakistan and the US have seen ups and downs over the years. Ties between Islamabad and Washington deteriorated when the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021. The US suspected Pakistan provided sanctuary to the militants, a charge Islamabad has always denied. 

Relations between the two countries further soured when former prime minister Imran Khan accused Washington of orchestrating his ouster from office via a parliamentary vote in April 2022, alleging that the US colluded with his political rivals to oust him. Washington has denied the allegations. 

The previous Pakistani government under Sharif, from April 2022 to August 2023, made efforts to improve ties with Washington. In September 2022, Sharif met US President Joe Biden at a reception for world leaders in New York. During the brief interaction between the two leaders, Biden resolved to help Pakistan as it suffered from the cataclysmic 2022 floods. 

Sharif, 72, was sworn in as Pakistan’s prime minister for a second time on Monday. He heads a country facing an overlapping security, economic and political crises. 

“We have said before, we value our alliance — long standing partnership — with Pakistan and have always viewed a strong, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan is as critical to United States-Pakistan interests,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said during a press briefing on Monday. 

“And our engagement with new prime minister Shehbaz Sharif and his government will continue to focus on advancing the shared interests.”

Sharif’s niece, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, was elected last Monday as Pakistan’s first woman chief minister. She was elected to the chief executive’s post of Punjab, Pakistan’s most prosperous and populous province. The post has long been a stepping stone to becoming the country’s prime minister.

Miller said Maryam’s election to the post was a “milestone” in Pakistani politics. 

“We look forward to cooperating with Pakistan more broadly on integrating women more fully into the country’s political life, in the economy, including through the US-Pakistan Women’s Council, civil society and other decision-making spaces,” he said. 

Sharif was elected to the prime minister’s post three weeks after the Feb. 8 general elections threw up a hung National Assembly, unleashing weeks of protests by opposition parties over allegations of rigging and vote count fraud.

Pakistan’s newly elected prime minister now faces an overlapping trio of political, economic and security crises, much like in his previous tenure. Sharif’s first order of business will be negotiating a new bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The current IMF program expires this month. 

The new PM will also have to tackle a spike in attacks by the Pakistani Taliban and other groups, including separatists.


Pakistan’s PM directs team to engage IMF on financial assistance talks

Pakistan’s PM directs team to engage IMF on financial assistance talks
Updated 05 March 2024
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Pakistan’s PM directs team to engage IMF on financial assistance talks

Pakistan’s PM directs team to engage IMF on financial assistance talks
  • Pakistan’s government will negotiate long-term program with IMF after its short-term program expires this month
  • Shehbaz Sharif takes over the reins of a country facing an overlapping security, economic and political crises
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has directed his team to prepare an action plan to revive Pakistan’s economy and proceed with talks on an Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), state-media reported on Tuesday, as the South Asian country scrambles to avoid a macroeconomic crisis by clinching a long-term bailout program with the international lender. One of the foremost challenges facing Sharif and his government would be to negotiate a long-term bailout program with the IMF, as Pakistan’s short-term program expires this month. Pakistan’s fragile $350-billion economy is in desperate need of external financing to shore up its foreign exchange reserves and escape a looming macroeconomic crisis. Hours after he was swearing-in ceremony, the Pakistani premier chaired an hours-long meeting in which he tasked authorities to devise an action plan to revive Pakistan’s economy, the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. The finance secretary provided a detailed briefing of the country’s economic situation in the meeting. “We have got the mandate to improve the economy and this is the top priority of our government,” Sharif was quoted as saying by the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) in a report. “PM Shehbaz directed for immediate initiation of talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regarding its Extended Fund Facility,” the report said. Sharif said Pakistan’s loss-making state-owned institutions would be privatized so that they do not become a “burden” on the economy. “PM Shehbaz asked all the banks and financial institutions to prepare strategies for the promotion of small and medium businesses so that the youth could be helped stand on their own feet,” the report said. The prime minister also directed reducing the size of the government by merging or closing institutions that were “no longer needed.” The prime minister described the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a hybrid government body established to attract international investment in Pakistan’s key economic sectors, as a “very important step” in bringing about economic stability in the country. He said the SIFC would be further strengthened by his government. For Pakistan, committing to a new IMF program, however, will mean committing to steps needed to stay on a narrow path to recovery. This would limit policy options to provide relief to a deeply frustrated population and cater to industries that are looking for government support to spur growth. Inflation touched a high of 38 percent with record depreciation of the rupee currency under Sharif’s last government from April 2022 to August 2023, mainly due to structural reforms necessitated by the IMF program. Pakistan continues to be enmeshed in economic crisis with inflation remaining high, hovering around 30 percent, and economic growth slowing to around 2 percent. PM Sharif will have to contend with Pakistan’s economic crisis at a time when the country is wracked with political instability. Pakistan’s controversial Feb. 8 national polls were marred by controversy and allegations of vote-rigging, denied by the country’s election regulator. Former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has led nationwide protests against the alleged rigging. The PTI has vowed to continue protests across the country until its mandate is not recognized. Meanwhile, the South Asian country faces mounting attacks from militant outfits in the country, especially the Pakistani Taliban or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The TTP have increased attacks in Pakistan since a fragile truce between them and the state broke down in November 2022.

Forbes names two Pakistanis among Middle East’s ‘100 Most Powerful Businesswomen’

Forbes names two Pakistanis among Middle East’s ‘100 Most Powerful Businesswomen’
Updated 05 March 2024
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Forbes names two Pakistanis among Middle East’s ‘100 Most Powerful Businesswomen’

Forbes names two Pakistanis among Middle East’s ‘100 Most Powerful Businesswomen’
  • This year’s list featured 100 entries, with 104 women from 27 different sectors and 28 nationalities
  • The banking and financial services sector led the list with 26 entries, followed by health care and others
ISLAMABAD: Forbes, an American business magazine, has named two Pakistanis in its list of the Middle East’s ‘100 Most Powerful Businesswomen’ for the year 2024. This year’s list featured 100 entries, with 104 women from 27 different sectors and 28 nationalities, according to Forbes. The banking and financial services sector led the list with 26 entries, followed by health care with 13, and investments and technology with six entries each. There were 35 newcomers to the list, from 15 different sectors. Shaista Asif, co-founder and group chief executive officer (CEO) of PureHealth Holding health care network in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was ranked 4th on the list. She co-founded the health care corporation in 2006 and was appointed group CEO in Dec. 2023. Her group’s initial public offering (IPO) raised a total of $986 million by offering 10 percent of its issued share capital on the first market of the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) in Dec. 2023. The IPO was oversubscribed by 483 times in the retail tranche and by 54 times in the professional subscriber tranche, according to Forbes. “In January 2024, the group acquired the UK’s largest independent operator of hospitals, Circle Health Group, for $1.2 billion before debt,” the American magazine reported. “PureHealth acquired Sheikh Shakbout Medical City, the U.A.E.’s largest health care complex, valued at $600 million with revenues of $585.4 million.” Shazia Syed, another Pakistani and the Unilever general manager for North Africa, Levant and Iraq, secured 9th position on the list for her extensive experience working at several corporations. “Syed assumed her current role in 2021 and is also the Arabia Senior Customer Development Lead. She joined Unilever in 1989. She also sits on the board of United Bank Limited in Pakistan, is a member of the Board Risk & Compliance Committee, and is the chairperson of the Board Audit Committee,” Forbes wrote. “She previously sat on the boards of Pukka Tea and Pepsi Lipton, was the president of the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and was the director of the Pakistan Business Council.”