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Updated Feb 9, 2024, 8:05pm EST
South Asia
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Semafor Signals

Pakistan’s jailed ex-PM declares election victory in AI video after unclear results

Insights from TIME Magazine, Reuters, and Dawn

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Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan delivers a speech to his supporters on Aug. 13, 2022. Khan is currently jailed.
AFP via Getty Images/Arif Ali
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The News

Pakistan is edging closer to political chaos with the general election yielding no clear winner so far, and with two former leaders and rivals claiming victory in the polls.

In a shocking turn of events, independent candidates linked to jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s PTI party appear to have the most seats so far, with the military-backed Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz party (PMLN) coming in second place, according to early results. But with only a few seats remaining, it’s unclear if a single party can obtain a majority in parliament, leaving doubts about who will be the next prime minister.

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In an AI-generated video, Khan declared victory and urged his supporters to “show the strength of protecting your vote.” His rival and leader of the PMLN, Nawaz Sharif, announced that his party had the single largest share, while admitting that he still needed coalition partners to form a majority government.

The election in the world’s fifth most-populous country has been marred by violent protests, allegations of vote rigging, delayed vote counts, and mobile network shutdowns.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Pakistan’s powerful military failed to stop Imran Khan from surging in polls

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Source:  
TIME Magazine

The unexpected strong showing for Imran Khan’s party in the polls is “a bloody nose for Pakistan’s military,” Time wrote. As the military’s favored candidate in this election, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was allowed to return from political exile and had his lifetime ban on politics lifted. Khan’s success in the election comes despite the military “overtly” targeting his party, one expert told Time, by banning the party’s cricket bat logo and suspending cell phone services on election day. Despite being shot, jailed, and effectively banned, “you just can’t keep Imran Khan down,” Time wrote, and the military’s attempts to quash his popularity will only aggravate his base and exacerbate political turmoil.

Political uncertainty will worsen Pakistan’s economic crisis

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Sources:  
The World Bank, Reuters

This week’s election was seen as a referendum on economic policy, with Pakistan in the midst of one of its worst economic crises spurred by slow growth and heightened poverty. But with a “potential political stalemate” the country could fail to meet deadlines for urgent international funding needed to jumpstart the sluggish economy, Reuters reported. A fractured and fragile government will make it more difficult to pass “painful and unpopular but necessary” economic reforms, analysts told Reuters. Continued protests and violence over the election results could further hurt the economy.

PTI-backed independent candidates face uncertain future in parliament despite electoral success

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Source:  
Dawn

Despite its unexpected success at the polls, Imran Khan’s PTI party “is still at a significant disadvantage,” Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper wrote, given that candidates have been forced to run as independents. Even if the PTI-backed candidates win the most seats, the party will be unable to form a majority as the independents will not be allocated minority group seats in the parliament, according to Dawn. There is also the possibility that some of them could switch sides and support the rival party of PMLN. The best move for PTI-backed candidates would be to declare their allegiance to a different registered party with similar values that didn’t contest the election, allowing them to form a government, one political journalist told Dawn.

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