Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called for national elections again on Monday after his party seized control of the state assembly in the country’s most populous province of Punjab.
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Twenty seats were occupied in the Punjab by-election, which was seen as a test of popularity for the former international cricket star, who was rejected by a no-confidence vote in April.
His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party won 15, with current Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) winning four and one going to independents.
Sunday’s vote was also seen as a threat to national elections, which should be held by October next year, although Khan has campaigned nationwide for an earlier election since his sacking.
“The only way forward from here is to hold free and transparent elections,” Khan tweeted early Monday after counting of votes in Punjab.
“Any other way will only increase political uncertainty and further economic chaos.”
Khan has attended thousands of rallies since his ouster, claiming that the government was imposed on Pakistan by a US-led conspiracy.
He also blames the incumbent government for rising inflation, though most analysts believe Sharif inherited the country’s economic woes – which last week agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to restart a relief package. To have been given some relief by an agreement.
Newspapers in Pakistan suggested that Punjab was a result of the economic hardships currently being felt by the country, which is spending almost half of its income to service the dire foreign debt.
In order to meet the IMF’s conditions to renegotiate the $7.2 billion aid package, Sharif had to remove subsidies on fuel – effectively raising prices by more than 50 percent in less than two months .
“The bitter taste of unpopular decisions,” read a headline on the front-page analysis in the influential Dawn newspaper.
The Punjab Assembly vote was called after the Election Commission disqualified 20 PTI members for changing party loyalties.
The result meant the end of a brief rule by the prime minister’s son Hamza Sharif as chief minister of Punjab.
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