Cricket star declares victory in tense elections
Pakistan cricket great-turned- opposition-stalwart Imran Khan claimed victory yesterday in the country's tense elections, following accusations of poll "rigging" by rival parties.
"We were successful and we were given a mandate," Mr Khan said during a live broadcast, adding there was "no politician victimisation" in the contest.
Results were still being tallied yesterday, hours after Mr Khan's supporters took to the streets to celebrate winning an election that opponents have said the powerful military rigged in his favour.
However, the vote appeared to be heading for a political crisis as rival parties rejected the results and said they would meet to decide their next steps. Fears were also growing of civil unrest as allegations of "rigging" spread.
Monitors had been thrown out of polling stations as votes were tallied and results were unexpectedly delayed for hours.
"We will use all political and legal options for redressal of these glaring excesses," said Shahbaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League.
"This is an outright rigging and the results based on massive rigging will cause irreparable damage to the country."
On Wednesday night, a top Pakistani election official said results from the election were coming in late because of technical issues, and there was "no conspiracy" in the delay.
"There's no conspiracy, nor any pressure in delay of the results," Babar Yaqoob, secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan, told reporters. "The delay is being caused because the result transmission system has collapsed."
Yesterday analysts were warning Pakistan may be facing further instability amid fears opposition parties would stoke unrest by contesting the results.
"This is complete chaos," said political analyst Azeema Cheema, who said she was "very concerned" about what comes next.
"It depends on how the civilian disobedience is being organised. You may have spontaneous riots among political party workers. Then maybe political parties will organise sit-ins and demonstrations," she told AFP.
Michael Kugelman, an analyst at the Wilson Centre in Washington, shared the concern: "No matter how you slice it, the immediate post-election climate in Pakistan will be quite tense.
"I don't see any way to prevent a period of turmoil."
Polling day had already been marred by a deadly suicide bombing that killed 31.
Carnage outside a polling station in the city of Quetta marred the vote when a suicide bomber tried to enter and detonated as he was stopped by police.
The blast was claimed by Isil. The attack came despite the largest polling day security operation the country has ever mounted, with more than 370,000 troops posted at 85,000 polling stations.
There were also clashes between supporters of Mr Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (Pakistan Justice Movement) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) of Nawaz Sharif.
Twenty-two years since founding his party, Mr Khan appeared to have finally broken the stranglehold of the mainstream political elite as the country voted for only its second ever democratic transition of power.
Mr Khan's populist message of a less corrupt, new Pakistan has captivated many young voters hungry for change.
Yet the election campaign has been overshadowed by claims Pakistan's powerful military has tipped the playing field in his favour, in a vendetta against former Prime Minister Mr Sharif.
The PML-N has complained of a concerted campaign of harassment and media restrictions.
Before voting, Pakistan's human rights commission had complained of "blatant, aggressive and unabashed attempts to manipulate the outcome of the upcoming elections".
The army denies meddling and says it supports democracy.