2024 Pakistani general election

Source From Wikipedia English.

General elections were held in Pakistan on 8 February 2024 to elect the Members of the 16th National Assembly. The Election Commission of Pakistan announced the detailed schedule on 15 December 2023.

2024 Pakistani general election
2024 Pakistani general election - Wikidata
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All 336 seats in the National Assembly
169 seats needed for a majority
Opinion polls
Registered128,585,760
Turnout47.8% (Decrease3.9pp)
  First party Second party Third party
 
Leader Imran Khan Nawaz Sharif Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
Party PTI-Ind. PML(N) PPP
Last election 31.82%, 116 seats 82 seats 54 seats
Seats won 93 108 68
Seat change Decrease23 Increase26 Increase14

Map of Pakistan with National Assembly constituencies

Caretaker Prime Minister before election

Anwaar ul Haq Kakar
Independent

Subsequent Prime Minister

Shehbaz Sharif
Pakistan Muslim League (N)

The elections were held following two years of political unrest after Prime Minister Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), was removed from office by a no-confidence motion. Subsequently, Khan was arrested and convicted for corruption and barred from politics for five years. In the run-up to the elections, a Supreme Court ruling stripped the PTI of their electoral symbol for failing to hold intra-party elections for years.

On election night, TV broadcasts showed PTI-backed candidates leading in atleast 127 NA seats, which hinted at a potential Majority. However, the announcement of final results was abruptly halted. Subsequently, independent candidates ended up winning 103 general seats including 93 backed by the PTI, followed by 75 from the Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N) and 54 from the Pakistan People's Party (PPP). In Punjab and Sindh provinces, the PML-N and the PPP respectively emerged as the largest parties. Independent candidates backed by the PTI won the most number of seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while Balochistan voted for the PPP and the PML-N as the largest parties. Later all parties except PTI were given reserved seats for women and minorities.

The Military Establishment was accused of rigging in favour of the PML-N's leader Nawaz Sharif. Observer groups and members of the international community, including the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union, have voiced their concerns about the fairness of the elections, while media outlets around the world denounced the election as "fraudulent".

PTI chair Gohar Ali Khan alleged election rigging and claimed that the party had won 180 National Assembly seats as per provincial election results. PTI founder and leader Imran Khan also cited alleged election rigging, and declined to forge alliances with other parties to establish a federal government and instead opted to assume an opposition role in parliament.

At a press conference on 13 February 2024, it was announced by the leaders of the PML-N and the PPP that they would form a coalition government with Shehbaz Sharif as prime minister. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement – Pakistan, the Pakistan Muslim League (Q), the Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party and the Balochistan Awami Party also expressed their intent to join the governmental coalition. On 3 March, PML-N candidate Shehbaz Sharif was re-elected as Prime Minister of Pakistan for the second time, securing 201 votes against the 92 votes received by the PTI-backed Omar Ayub Khan. With no party securing a majority in the assembly, Shehbaz become prime minister with support from PML-N's allies, including the PPP, MQM-P, PML-Q, BAP, PML-Z, IPP, and NP among others.

Background

2018 elections

General elections were held in Pakistan on 25 July 2018 after the completion of a five-year term by the outgoing government. At the national level, elections were held in 272 constituencies, each electing one member to the National Assembly. At the provincial level, elections were held in each of the four provinces to elect Members of the Provincial Assemblies (MPA).

As a result of the elections, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) became the single largest party at the national level in terms of both popular vote and seats. At the provincial level, the PTI remained the largest party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP); the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) remained the largest party in Sindh and the newly-formed Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) became the largest party in Balochistan. In Punjab, a hung parliament prevailed with Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N) emerging as the largest party in terms of directly elected seats by a narrow margin. However, following the support of the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) and the joining of independent MPAs into the PTI, the latter became the largest party and was able to form the government.

2022 constitutional crisis

On 8 March 2022, the opposition parties, under the banner of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), submitted a motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Imran Khan to the National Assembly's secretariat. On 27 March 2022, Khan waved a diplomatic cypher from US in the public, claiming that it demanded the removal of Khan's government in a coup. Later he changed his stance about the US conspiracy against his government, in an effort to mend ties with the country. However, in August 2023, The Intercept claimed to have published the contents of the diplomatic cable which had American diplomat Donald Lu on record as stating that "all will be forgiven" concerning the country's neutrality in the Ukraine conflict, if the no-confidence motion against Khan were to succeed. After the election, JUI-F president Fazal-ur-Rehman, a critic of Imran Khan, claimed that the motion of no-confidence to remove Khan was introduced on the instructions of former army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

On 1 April 2022, Prime Minister Khan announced that in the context of the no-confidence motion against him in the National Assembly, the three options were discussed with "establishment" to choose from viz: "resignation, no-confidence [vote] or elections". On 3 April 2022, President Arif Alvi dissolved the National Assembly of Pakistan on Khan's advice after the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly rejected and set-aside the motion of no confidence; this move would have required elections to the National Assembly to be held within 90 days. On 10 April, after a Supreme Court ruling that the no-confidence motion was illegally rejected, a no-confidence vote was conducted and he was ousted from office, becoming the first prime minister in Pakistan to be removed from office by a vote of no confidence. Khan claimed the United States was behind his removal because he conducted an independent foreign policy and had friendly relations with China and Russia. His removal led to protests from his supporters across Pakistan.

PDM government

After the success of the no-confidence motion, on 11 April 2022, Shehbaz Sharif became the Prime Minister after receiving 174 votes out of a total of 342, two more than the required majority with the support of the Pakistan People's Party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and various smaller parties under the coalition of the PDM. Dissident members of PTI also supported his candidature. Meanwhile, the remaining PTI members, who were now in the opposition, boycotted the session terming it a continuation of a "foreign conspiracy". A day later, over 100 PTI members tendered resignations from their National Assembly seats.

The PDM government remained in power until 10 August 2023. Sharif's tenure was marked by historically high inflation, contraction of the national economy, and a record devaluation of the Pakistani rupee.

Assassination attempt on Imran Khan and his subsequent arrest

Following its ouster from the government, PTI continued to enjoy mass popularity with its supporters taking to the streets across the country. In July 2022, during a provincial by-election in Punjab, the party had a landslide victory after winning 15 of the 20 seats. During October 2022 by-elections conducted for the National Assembly, the party won 7 out of 9 seats with Khan winning 6 of the 7 seats he was contesting for. Later in the year, Khan himself led a well-attended march of protest throughout the populous province of Punjab, to force an early general election. However, on 3 November 2022, while he was leading the march through Wazirabad, he was shot at and injured in an attempted assassination.

As Khan was recovering from the gunshot wounds to his leg, the government registered several cases against him and attempted to arrest him from his home in Zaman Park on two different occasions during March 2023. Each time the police were unable to arrest him as his supporters intervened. Then on 9 May 2023, he was violently arrested by paramilitary forces while marking his attendance at Islamabad High Court in a corruption case. The arrest came a day after the country's army warned him for accusing a high-ranking member of the ISI, Major General Faisal Naseer, of being responsible for the assassination attempt in November 2022. Nationwide violence followed, in what were termed as the May 9 riots, with some demonstrators targeting military installations. Following the events, a crackdown was initiated against the party by the country's military establishment. PTI leaders, party workers, and supporters, as well as those perceived to be allied to the party's cause within the media and legal profession, were targeted. Trials of civilians within military courts were also initiated. Several core leaders of the party have been in hiding since, with many incarcerated or forced to abandon the party. Subsequently, two pro-establishment splinter groups emerged from within the PTI, namely the PTI Parliamentarians (PTI-P), led by Pervez Khattak, and the Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP), led by Jahangir Tareen.

Schedule controversies

In January 2023, in a bid to force early general elections, the PTI prematurely dissolved the provincial assemblies it was in power in – namely Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. According to the constitution of Pakistan, after the dissolution of an assembly, elections are supposed to be held there within 90 days, thus, constitutionally limiting the date for the two provincial elections to be no later than April 2023. However, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) delayed the elections to October 2023, citing lack of funds provided by the PDM government and the unavailability of the required security personnel. The PTI approached the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the electoral body's decision, terming it a violation of the constitution, and with a majority verdict the court declared the ECP's earlier ruling as unconstitutional and ordered it to hold elections by 14 May 2023. After the nationwide May 9 riots that broke out following Imran Khan's arrest – the election date passed without the Supreme Court order being enforced. On 30 May, after the passage of a new law, the PDM government filed a review petition against the court's earlier ruling.

On 10 August 2023, the National Assembly was prematurely dissolved by the President Arif Alvi on the advice of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. This meant that the election must be held no later than 8 November 2023. However, on 5 August 2023, the results of the 2023 digital census were approved by the Council of Common Interests headed by Shehbaz Sharif. Therefore, elections were to be delayed to February 2024 at the latest, as announced by the ECP in order to carry out fresh electoral delimitations in light of the approved census results. Despite that, on 13 September 2023, President Alvi proposed 6 November 2023 as a date to the ECP and advised it to seek guidance from the Supreme Court for the announcement of the election date. On 2 November 2023, the ECP and the President agreed on 8 February 2024 as the date for the general election.

Return of Nawaz Sharif to electoral politics

At the start of May 2023, the PDM government adopted a law allowing for filing review petitions against prior Supreme Court verdicts.to At the end of June, another law, limiting disqualification to five years, was adopted. It also allows the electoral commission to announce the date of an election without consulting the President of the country.

After serving 12 months of his 7-year sentence on corruption charges, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif left the country on 19 November 2019 to receive medical treatment in London, promising to return in 4 weeks. He was declared a fugitive in 2021 after failing to appear before courts despite summons. Sharif obtained protective bail on 19 October 2023, which allowed him to return from 4 years of self-imposed exile without being arrested. On October 21, he returned to the country where he was welcomed in Lahore by a gathering of tens of thousands of his supporters.

On 9 January 2024, a seven-member Supreme Court bench under Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, hearing a review petition against lifetime disqualification, announced a 6–1 majority verdict with Justice Yahya Afridi dissenting. The verdict set aside the earlier Supreme Court interpretation of lifetime disqualification for article 62(1)(f) of the constitution, stating that it violated fundamental rights, and instead set a five-year disqualification following the newly passed laws for lawmakers who fail the moral standard of "sadiq and ameen" (honest and righteous). The timing of the verdict ensured that Sharif, who was disqualified for life in the Panama Papers case in 2017, is eligible to contest these elections with a possible fourth term as prime minister.

Campaign

PTI de facto ban through intra-party election verdict

On 22 December 2023, the ECP decided against allowing the PTI to keep its electoral symbol, asserting that the party had failed to conduct intra-party elections to the commission's satisfaction. Subsequently, on the same day, the PTI appealed to the Peshawar High Court (PHC) challenging the ECP's decision. Consequently, a single-member bench suspended the ECP's order until 9 January 2024. On 30 December 2023, the ECP submitted a review application to the PHC. In the following days, a two-member bench lifted the suspension order while hearing the case. However, on 10 January 2024, the two-member bench deemed the ECP's order "illegal, without any lawful authority, and of no legal effect." Responding to this, on 11 January, the ECP contested the ruling in the Supreme Court.

On 13 January, a three-member panel of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, sided with the ECP, reinstating their initial decision to deny the PTI its election symbol, the cricket bat, due to the party's failure to conduct intra-party elections by its constitution. Consequently, the PTI was unable to allocate party tickets to any of its candidates, resulting in all party candidates being listed as independent candidates with individual electoral symbols. The party also lost the right to nominate candidates for 226 reserved seats across the central and provincial legislatures. Removing the cricket bat symbol was viewed as preventing voters from recognising the party on ballot papers—a crucial factor in Pakistan where 40 per cent of the population is illiterate.

The Supreme Court's decision led some legal experts to describe the ruling as a "huge blow to fundamental rights" and "a defeat for democratic norms."

Imran Khan's convictions

In the week before the elections, Imran Khan was sentenced to jail terms in three separate cases. On 30 January 2024, with the government seeking a death penalty, he was sentenced to 10 years in a case dealing with the handling of state secrets by Judge Abul Hasnat Zulqarnain. A day later, Judge Muhammad Bashir, sentenced him and his wife, Bushra Bibi, to a jail term of 14 years, along with a fine of Rs. 787 million (US$2.7 million) each for retaining a jewellery set that was a state gift from Saudi Arabia against an undervalued assessment from the country's Toshakhana. The ruling also barred Khan from holding public office for 10 years. Two days later, Judge Qudratullah declared the marriage of Khan and his wife against Islamic law and sentenced both to prison for a term of seven years for allegedly solemnising their marriage during Bushra's Iddah period. The case was lodged on the complaint of Khawar Maneka, Bushra's former husband, five years after her marriage to Khan.

All three trials were held behind closed doors in Adiala Jail, where Khan has been incarcerated since August 2023 on corruption charges, and were marked with rushed proceedings, sudden replacement of defendant's lawyers with state consuls, and other procedural irregularities that led his party to term the decisions to be coming from "kangaroo courts". Khan's sentencing in the marriage case was decried by lawyers and members of the civil society as an overreach and a blow to women's rights. Meanwhile, some observers termed the sentencings as a continuation of the Pakistani military's engineering to keep Khan out of power in the upcoming elections. On election day, a PTI official said Khan had been allowed to vote in prison using a postal ballot.

Allegations of pre-poll rigging

Some observers, including the United Nations and Human Rights Watch, have pointed to what appears to be pre-poll rigging in the run-up to the upcoming elections. There have been notable actions against the PTI and its leaders, including snatching of nomination papers, arbitrary arrests of candidates and their supporters, systematic rejection of nomination papers, and disruption of campaign events. This situation has led to widespread allegations of 'election engineering' and manipulative practices that could potentially favour certain political groups, casting doubts over the fairness of the electoral process. Pakistan's electoral commission was also accused of gerrymandering in favour of the PML-N during the redrawing of voter maps before the elections, with a record 1,300 complaints made.

Many candidates affiliated with the PTI complained that following the ban on the usage of the cricket bat as the party's logo for the ballots, the electoral commission provided them with symbols carrying obscure meanings and sometimes awkward connotations such as a calculator, an electric heater, a dice, a bed, an eggplant, which is deemed anatomically suggestive, and a bottle, which carries suggestions of alcohol consumption in the majority-Muslim country. This forces some of them to highlight their assigned symbols to voters, particularly those living in rural areas, on TikTok.

Numerous PTI candidates were reportedly beaten and imprisoned, while many were compelled to join opposing parties or quit politics entirely. A strict order was given to stop mentioning Khan's name on television and PTI protests were suppressed, while PTI supporters were arrested and harassed by the military, judiciary as well other political parties. The majority of the party leadership found themselves imprisoned or exiled, while PTI rallies were subjected to attacks and bombings, making campaigning virtually impossible as candidates were forced into hiding. The Intercept reported allegations of military involvement in the killing and torture of PTI supporters, and also noted that Pakistani media was significantly restricted over the past year, making critical reporting on the army and government nearly impossible.

On one occasion, Usman Dar, a former member of Imran Khan's cabinet, announced his resignation from the PTI and also withdrew from the election after police officials assaulted his elderly mother, Rehana Dar, in her own bedroom. Rehana Dar subsequently appeared on TV, announcing her intention to enter the election race and contest against Khawaja Asif. She expressed, "You have achieved what you wanted by making my son [Usman Dar] step down at gunpoint, but my son has quit politics, not me. Now you will face me in politics".

Just 48 hours before the voting, a full-page advertisement declaring Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister was published on the front pages of every newspaper in the country.

Appointment of bureaucrats as electoral officers

For the first time in Pakistan's electoral history since 1985, Chief Electoral Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja employed the services of the highly politicized executive bureaucracy, particularly Assistant Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners, in the key electoral roles of Returning Officers (RO) and District Returning Officers (DRO). These ROs and DROs are engaged in all stages of the electoral process: from screening applicants to consolidation of vote counts, and, finally, provisionally notifying winning candidates. Traditionally, these posts have been occupied by the lower judiciary of the country.

On 14 December 2023, Justice Ali Baqar Najafi of the Lahore High Court suspended the ECP's decision on the petition of the PTI that questioned the apparent bias of the appointed bureaucrats. However, the next day, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court, consisting of Qazi Faez Isa, Mansoor Ali Shah, and Sardar Tariq Masood, set aside this ruling and allowed the DROs and ROs to be notified from the bureaucracy, meanwhile stopping LHC from undertaking further proceedings on the petition citing over-reach of authority.

On 30 December 2023, these ROs rejected a majority of the nomination papers filed by the leadership of the PTI, including those of the party's chief, Imran Khan. The PTI's general secretary, Omar Ayub Khan, termed the rejections as "pre-poll rigging". The party challenged these rejections in the courts. Many of these rejections were later reversed by the courts.

Censorship

On 26 January 2024, PTI's official website, insaf.pk, and a separate website made for disseminating information regarding the individual electoral symbols of the party's candidates were blocked in Pakistan. A voter helpline created by the party was also blocked. Previously, social media was blocked in the country during the party's virtual electoral events on at least three separate occasions as per internet watchdog, NetBlocks.

Journalists covering the elections reported a 'near-blanket ban' on their ability to cover PTI candidates fairly. News channels allegedly received messages from individuals belonging to Pakistan's military establishment instructing them to remove all references to PTI in their visuals, graphics, and talking points.

Election day violence and disruptions

Widespread internet disruption, with complete closure of mobile phone networks, was observed and condemned by Amnesty International as a blunt attack on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Several polling stations faced instances of violence, ballot box snatching, vandalism and gunfire.

On election day, polling stations were changed randomly, causing confusion and directing voters to incorrect polling locations.

Electoral system

The 336 members of the National Assembly consist of 266 general seats elected by first-past-the-post voting in single-member constituencies, 60 seats that are reserved for women elected by proportional representation based on the number of general seats won by each party in each province, and ten seats that are reserved for non-Muslims elected through proportional representation based on the number of overall general seats won by each party. Independents cannot claim reserved seats.

The government had passed a bill that required the next general elections to be held using EVMs (electronic voting machines). This was aimed at ending the allegations of rigging that have plagued previous elections in Pakistan. Still, the opposition's opinion was that it would make it extremely easy for PTI to rig the elections in their favour through security loopholes.

In 2022 when the PTI-led government was ousted through a successful vote of no-confidence in the National Assembly, the 11 opposition parties, some of them being long-time rivals, formed a new government and passed the Elections Amendment Bill, which nullified the use of EVMs in the next general elections. Hence, EVMs were not used in the current general elections. Instead paper ballots were once again employed during the elections. Furthermore, overseas Pakistanis were also prevented from e-voting in these elections because of this amendment.

Voting and transmission of results

Registered voters in each polling station of an electoral district get two paper ballots to put a stamp on their preferred candidate for the national and provincial assembly respectively. These ballots are then counted by a presiding officer who then transmits the results for their polling station to the returning officer (RO) in Form 45. Copies of Form 45 are also given to the observing polling agents of the contesting candidates. The RO then consolidates these Form 45s, in front of the contesting candidates of the constituency they are overseeing, to give a provisional result in Form 47 before doing a final consolidation in Form 48. The ECP then uses the data from Forms 47 and 48 to officially notify elected members for each constituency using Form 49, provided that no candidate contested the unofficial consolidated counts given in Form 48.

Timeline

In July 2023 the ECP invited political parties to submit applications for the allocation of electoral symbols, given that about 40% of the Pakistani population is illiterate.

As of 25 July 2023, the total number of registered voters in Pakistan stood around 127 million as compared to 106 million (including 59.22 million men and 46.73 million women voters) in 2018, according to the data released by the ECP. According to the figures, the number of eligible female voters stood at 58.5 million (around 46 per cent of the total registered voters) while the number of eligible male voters was 68.5 million (about 54 per cent of the total voters).

In late September the ECP announced that citizens over 18 can update their voter details until 25 October 2023. The ECP decided to "unfreeze" the electoral rolls to allow registered voters to rectify or update their details.

On 2 November 2023, President Arif Alvi and the ECP agreed on holding general elections on 8 February, after a meeting was held in Aiwan-i-Sadr on the orders of the Supreme Court. The court had instructed the ECP to consult with the President on the poll date.

On 15 December 2023, the ECP issued the election schedule. It set 22 December as the last date for filing nomination papers. On that day however, the ECP extended the deadline for the submission of nomination papers to 24 December. More than 5,000 people were officially recognized as candidates for the 266 directly elected seats in the National Assembly, with only 313 of them being women.

Compared to the 46.89pc female voter turnout in 2018, the share of female voters share decreased to 41.3pc in 2024, while the male turnout increased from 56.01pc to 58.7pc.

Parties

The table below lists each party that either received a share of the vote higher than 0.5% in the 2018 Pakistan general election or had representation in the 15th National Assembly of Pakistan. Political parties are ordered by their vote share in the 2018 elections. Independent candidates received 11.46% of the vote and 13 national assembly seats (both general seats and total seats in the 15th National Assembly, as reserved seats for women and minorities, are given to political parties) in 2018.[citation needed]

Name Flag Claimed
ideology(ies)
Leader Voteshare
in 2018
General seats won in 2018 Seats before election
PTI Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf
پاکستان تحريکِ انصاف
  Populism
Islamic democracy
Welfarism
Civic nationalism
Imran Khan 31.82%
116 / 272
149 / 342
PML(N) Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)
پاکستان مسلم لیگ (نواز)
  Conservatism
Economic liberalism
Federalism
Nawaz Sharif 24.35%
64 / 272
82 / 342
PPP Pakistan People's Party
پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی
  Social democracy
Islamic democracy
Progressivism
Third Way
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari 13.03%
43 / 272
58 / 342
JUI-F Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl)
جمیعت علماءِ اسلام (ف)
  Islamism
Conservatism
Fazl-ur-Rahman 4.85%
11 / 272
14 / 342
JI Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan
جماعت اسلامی پاکستان
  Islamism
Islamic revivalism
Social conservatism
Siraj-ul-Haq
1 / 272
1 / 342
MQM(P) Muttahida Qaumi Movement – Pakistan
متحدہ قومی موومنٹ(پاکستان)
  Liberalism
Social liberalism
Social democracy
Muhajir nationalism
Secularism
Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui 1.38%
6 / 272
7 / 342
TLP Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan
تحریک لبیک پاکستان
  Islamism
Far-Right
Saad Hussain Rizvi 4.21%
0 / 272
0 / 342
AML Awami Muslim League Pakistan
عوامی مسلم لیگ پاکستان
  Islamism[citation needed]
Populism
Shaikh Rasheed Ahmad 0.22%
1 / 272
1 / 342
JWP Jamhoori Wattan Party
جمہوری وطن پارٹی
  Baloch nationalism Shahzain Bugti 0.04%
1 / 272
1 / 342
MQM-London Muttahida Qaumi Movement – London
متحدہ قومی موومنٹ
  Social Liberalism
Secularism
Muhajir Nationalism
Altaf Hussain 0%
0 / 272
0 / 342
MQM-H Mohajir Qaumi Movement Pakistan
مہاجر قومی موومنٹ پاکستان
  Liberal Socialism
Secularism
Muhajir Nationalism
Afaq Ahmed 0%
0 / 272
0 / 342
GDA Grand Democratic Alliance
گرینڈ ڈیموکریٹک الائنس
  Regionalism
Opposition to the PPP
Pir of Pagaro VIII 2.37%
2 / 272
3 / 342
ANP Awami National Party
عوامی نيشنل پارٹی
  Pashtun nationalism
Democratic socialism
Secularism
Asfandyar Wali Khan 1.54%
1 / 272
1 / 342
MWM Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen
مجلس وحدتِ مسلمین
  Islamic Socialism
Shia-Sunni Unity
Islamic Democracy
Allama Raja Nasir Abbas 0%
0 / 272
0 / 342
PML(Q) Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid e Azam)
پاکستان مسلم لیگ(قائد اعظم)
  Conservatism
Pakistani nationalism
Shujaat Hussain 0.97%
4 / 272
5 / 342
BAP Balochistan Awami Party
بلوچستان عوامی پارٹی
  Federalism
Islamic democracy
Khalid Hussain Magsi 0.60%
4 / 272
5 / 342
BNP(M) Balochistan National Party (Mengal)
بلوچستان نيشنل پارٹی(مینگل)
  Baloch nationalism
Democratic socialism
Secularism
Akhtar Mengal 0.45%
3 / 272
4 / 342
PML(Z) Pakistan Muslim League (Z)
پاکستان مسلم لیگ (ض)
  Islamism
Populism
Reformism
Ijaz-ul-Haq
0 / 272
0 / 342

Opinion polls

In August 2023, the ECP imposed a total ban on entrance and exit polls including those on official digital media accounts of electronic and print media outlets. Before the ban, opinion polling in June 2023 by Gallup Pakistan, the Institute of Public Opinion Research (IPOR) and IRIS showed that the PML-N had regained its lead over the PTI especially in the country's largest province, Punjab.[citation needed]

Last date
of polling
Polling firm Link PTI PML(N) PPP MMA TLP Other Ind. Lead Margin
of error
Sample
size
Undecideds &
Non-voters
30 June 2023 Gallup Pakistan PDF 42% 20% 12% 4% 4% 5% 22% ±2.5% 3,500 13%
3 June 2022 IPOR (IRI) PDF 39% 33% 12% 7% 4% 5% 6% ±2 – 3% 2,003 25%
21 March 2022 IPOR (IRI) PDF 35% 33% 19% 6% 4% 3% 2% ±2 – 3% 3,509 16%
31 January 2022 Gallup Pakistan PDF 34% 33% 15% 6% 3% 9% 1% ±3 – 5% 5,688 33%
9 January 2022 IPOR (IRI) PDF 31% 33% 17% 3% 3% 11% 1% 2% ±2 – 3% 3,769 11%
11 November 2020 IPOR (IRI) PDF 36% 38% 13% 4% 3% 6% 2% ±3.22% 2,003 32%
13 August 2020 IPOR (IRI) PDF 33% 38% 15% 3% 3% 8% 5% ±2.95% 2,024 26%
30 June 2020 IPOR (IRI) PDF 24% 27% 11% 3% 2% 33% 3% ±2.38% 1,702 N/A
24 June 2019 Gallup Pakistan PDF 31% 28% 15% 5% 21% 3% ±3 – 5% ~1,400 N/A
22 November 2018 IPOR (IRI) PDF 43% 27% 15% 1% 1% 11% 1% 16% ±2.05% 3,991 22%
25 July 2018 2018 Elections ECP 31.8% 24.3% 13.0% 4.8% 4.2% 10.3% 11.5% 7.5% N/A 53,123,733 N/A

Security concerns and violence

The ECP categorised half the country's 90,675 polling stations as either "sensitive", meaning there is a risk of violence, or "most sensitive", indicating a higher risk. The classifications were based on the area's security situation and history of electoral violence. In Balochistan Province alone, caretaker provincial home minister Muhammad Zubair Jamali said that almost 80% of its 5,028 polling stations had been declared "sensitive".

Pre-poll violence

On 25 January 2024, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan pledged not to stage attacks on election rallies and would limit itself to attacking military and police targets during the election period. This followed the government's decision to deploy troops in sensitive constituencies after intelligence agencies warned that militants could target rallies.

Two candidates were killed during the election campaign. On 10 January, Malik Kaleem Ullah, an independent candidate for the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was shot dead while on a door-to-door sortie, while on 31 January, Rehan Zaib Khan, an independent candidate affiliated with the PTI, was killed after gunmen opened fire on his car in a market in Bajaur, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in an attack that also injured three people and was claimed by the Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISIS-K). On 30 January, four people were killed and five others injured in an explosion during a PTI rally in Sibi, Balochistan Province, while on 31 January, 15 people were injured in attacks on residences and offices of PPP candidates and the election office of the PML-N in Balochistan, which was partially claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army. On 7 February, 29 people were killed in explosions outside an independent candidate's office and an office of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) (JUI-F) in Balochistan. Both attacks were claimed by ISIS-K.

Incidents on election day

The Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the closure of its borders with Iran and Afghanistan on the eve of the general elections on 8 February, as a measure to enhance security.

Ten minutes before polling stations opened, the interior ministry announced the suspension of mobile internet services across the country, citing recent terrorist incidents. NetBlocks director Alp Toker called the outage "amongst the largest" that they had observed. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari demanded that the government restore services and said its lawyers would challenge the decision in court. The PTI called the outage a "cowardly act".

In Balochistan, grenades were thrown at two polling stations by unidentified individuals. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a soldier was killed in an attack by gunmen in Kot Azam, while five security personnel were killed in an attack in Kulachi. A polling station in the same province was shelled by mortars. Two security officers were killed and nine wounded by an explosion near a polling station in Lajja, Balochistan, while two people were injured following 14 "minor blasts" in Gwadar.

Post-election violence

On 9 February, two PTI workers were killed and 24 others were injured after clashes broke out between police and PTI supporters demonstrating against alleged electoral fraud in Shangla District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. On 10 February, Mohsin Dawar, the leader of the National Democratic Movement who was running for a national assembly seat in North Waziristan, was seriously injured in a gun attack in Miranshah. On 11 February, six people, including a police officer, were killed and five others were injured in election-related clashes in Larkana. On 12 February, Chaudhry Muhammad Adnan, a former PTI member of the Punjab Assembly and Independent candidate for the NA-57 Rawalpindi-VI and PP-19 Rawalpindi-XIII constituencies in Punjab, was shot dead in Rawalpindi. On 13 February, three people were killed and five others were injured in a gun attack on a PPP victory rally in Dera Ismail Khan. On 14 February, two people were killed and 13 others were injured in clashes between BAP and PPP supporters during a recount outside the office of the returning officer in Hub, Balochistan.

Results

Provisional results by party

The election was postponed in the NA-8 Bajaur constituency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to the killing of candidate Rehan Zaib Khan. Provincial assembly elections were also postponed in the constituencies of PK-22 and PK-91 (both in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) due to the deaths of candidates there.

PartySeats
GeneralWomenMinorityTotal
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-backed independents930093
Pakistan Muslim League (N)7519498
Pakistan People's Party5412268
Muttahida Qaumi Movement – Pakistan174122
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F)4105
Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party3104
Pakistan Muslim League (Q)3104
Balochistan National Party (Mengal)2002
Balochistan Awami Party1001
Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen1001
National Party1001
Pakistan Muslim League (Z)1001
Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party1001
Pashtunkhwa National Awami Party Pakistan1001
Awami National Party0000
Grand Democratic Alliance0000
Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan0000
Jamhoori Wattan Party0000
Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan0000
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Parliamentarians0000
Pakistan Markazi Muslim League0000
Pakistan Rah-e-Haq Party0000
Sunni Tehreek0000
Sunni Ittehad Council0000
Pakistan Awami Tehreek0000
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (S)0000
Islami Tehreek Pakistan0000
Wafa Parast0000
Other parties0000
Independents8008
Vacant122326
Total2666010336
Source: ECP, BBC, Tribune

Allegations of rigging

On election night, initial reports from television broadcasts indicated that PTI-backed candidates were leading in a significant number of National Assembly seats, with approximately 127 seats under their favor according to official counts. Other unofficial initial results showed Independents leading in 61 constituencies including those backed by the PTI, the PML-N leading in 43, and the PPP leading in 47. Others led in 27 seats. The ECP issued a statement clarifying that media reports on election results sourced from the Commission sources were inaccurate, emphasizing that no official results had been released. However, the announcement of results was then unexpectedly halted, which raised concerns. PTI officials also claimed that the party was leading in at least 125 National Assembly seats and that the official results were being tampered with, with cumulative polling stations' results of their candidates not tallying with the provisional final counts being issued by result officers. Several PTI-backed candidates from three of Pakistan's four provinces, as well as Islamabad, challenged these allegedly doctored final counts in the courts.

Despite assurances that official results would be released early on 9 February, the ECP only started releasing results more than 15 hours after polls closed, at noon on that day, citing complications brought about by the internet outage on election day. The ECP had earlier assured that their system will not be affected by any kind of internet outage, and can work offline. The Ministry of Interior cited communication challenges for the delay in election result compilation, attributing it to security precautions. Despite the restoration of mobile signals in the early hours of 9 February, the results still faced delays. The declaration of provisional results was not done until the late hours of 10 February, more than two days after the vote count had started. PTI supporters suspected that the shutdown of the mobile network was an attempt to disrupt the party's efforts to rally voters and document electoral fraud. The Economist called the delay in announcing the election results unusual, even by Pakistan's standards, saying that signs of tampering were "plentiful." The party pointed out significant disparities between polling station and constituency-level results, as the former did not reconcile with the latter and asserted that it could have won more seats if authorities had not interfered. Additionally, there were abrupt halts in result reporting on election night, and some candidates lost big leads overnight.

Salman Akram Raja, a PTI leader and candidate was quoted in The Guardian saying that he had pursued legal action, referring to the military's involvement by accusing them of rewriting the results. The PTI claimed that the results of at least 18 National Assembly seats were "falsely changed" by election officers, while at least six of its losing affiliated candidates launched legal appeals questioning the results, including Yasmin Rashid, who lost to Nawaz Sharif in a Lahore constituency. Jan Muhammad Buledi, a former spokesperson of the Balochistan provincial government and secretary general of the National Party was quoted in The Guardian as saying that he received a direct death threat from an army colonel after he publicly accused the military of stuffing the ballot boxes with fake votes in the constituency where he was a candidate.

During a press briefing on 13 February, PTI chair Gohar Ali Khan claimed that the party had won 180 National Assembly seats, including three in Islamabad, four in Balochistan, 115 in Punjab, 16 in Sindh, and 42 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He also called for the immediate resignation of Sikandar Sultan Raja, the head of the ECP. PTI leader Hammad Azhar asserted that, based on the Form 45 issued by the ECP, the PML-N secured only 17 National Assembly seats and approximately 30-40 seats in the Punjab Assembly. Meanwhile, PTI-backed independent candidates from Karachi filed petitions with the Sindh High Court, contesting the provisional results for 16 National Assembly seats and over 20 Sindh Assembly seats that they alleged to have won in the city. They argued that Form 45 data showed them leading by large margins, but the Form-47 results declared candidates from Muttahida Qaumi Movement – Pakistan and the PPP as winners, alleging tampering by returning officers. The party also established an online portal to gather evidence of electoral irregularities by collecting election records from polling stations nationwide, aiming to highlight disparities between recorded votes in Form 45 and the provisional official election results in Form 47. During a news conference on 16 February, PML-N leaders contended that the PTI had fabricated counterfeit Form-45s and claimed them to be screenshots circulated on social media, adding that the PTI refused to provide these forms to the ECP because of their provenance. The court also dismissed approximately 50 of these petitions and directed the ECP to rectify any discrepancies in Forms 45 and 47.

On 13 February, Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman, who won election to the Sindh Assembly representing the PS-129 Karachi Central-VIII constituency on behalf of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party relinquished his seat, saying that it was a PTI affiliate who had won and calling his position a "charity seat". The leader of the Grand Democratic Alliance, the Pir of Pagaro VIII also relinquished the two Sindh Assembly seats won by his party, citing electoral fraud.

According to a report, as of 24 February, out of the 90 National Assembly seats where the PTI claimed their candidates had won but were allegedly prevented due to rigging, only 35 independent candidates have filed cases for vote rechecking and other procedures before the ECP.

On 17 February, Rawalpindi Division commissioner Liaquat Ali Chattha resigned from his post after admitting his role in electoral fraud in the locality where 11 out of a total of 13 national assembly seats were won by PML-N candidates. He claimed his office helped candidates, who were trailing in the actual vote counts by approximately 70,000 votes per candidate, to secure victory using fake stamps. He implicated Chief Electoral Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa in the scheme. The ECP denied the allegations, saying that divisional commissioners had no direct role in the electoral process, and said it would launch an inquiry. Isa rejected the commissioner's allegation, calling them "baseless". The PTI also called for an investigation. However, on 22 February, Chattha retracted his claims of election rigging and apologized to the ECP, saying that the PTI offered a strong position for making the allegations. He also said that his mention of the Chief Justice was “taken to create mistrust in general public” against Isa.

While authorities insist that a division commissioner has no role in the election process in Pakistan, there are concerns about their potential unofficial influence on election conduct, as during these elections electoral officers were appointed from within the ranks of deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners, who both fall below a commissioner in the country's bureaucratic hierarchy.

Political analyst Zahid Hussain commented that Chattha's confession indicated widespread rigging during the elections and worsened the country's crisis. Following Chattha's retraction of his claims, Dawn in its editorial wrote that this turn of events had left the public puzzled and deepened the mystery, prompting calls for an investigation.

The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) said that its agents were denied access to observe result tabulations in approximately half of the electoral constituencies. Additionally, in dozens of other constituencies, candidates and their election agents were also barred from observing the vote tallies. FAFEN called on the ECP to thoroughly examine the contested constituencies' results using data analytics and forensics to ensure the legitimacy of election results, as requested by political parties and candidates through legal channels.

Disinformation

Rumors spread on social media claiming that international media outlets had reported the PTI winning over 150 seats. However, a fact-check conducted by iVerify found no evidence to support these claims.

The official Twitter account of Imran Khan, the de facto leader of the PTI, was involved in disseminating false information by sharing a fabricated video purportedly showing post-election rigging.

International analysis

Media outlets around the world denounced the election as "fraudulent" with western media characterized the election as already decided, favoring the military-backed candidate Nawaz Sharif.

The New York Times wrote the election results had caught many off guard, as the PML-N was widely anticipated to secure a landslide victory with the backing of the military. The report noted that voters expressed frustration with the military's interference in politics and opted to vote for PTI candidates in defiance of the military generals. It went on to say the election results had humiliated the military establishment and started a new political crisis in the country. Another article by the same newspaper said that the growing public discontent with military interference in politics is likely to pressure Pakistan's army chief General Asim Munir, with his only options being to reconcile with Imran Khan or push forward with an anti-Khan coalition, which many analysts believe would be weak and unsustainable.

The Washington Post in its editorial board wrote following the election outcome, the military's control is being questioned more than ever before, possibly in decades as for the first time, the military-preferred candidate, Nawaz Sharif, was unable to win the most seats. In a separate piece, it wrote that the youth of Pakistan caused the most significant election upset in the country's recent history saying that the youth is increasingly discontented with economic uncertainty and blame corruption and political dynasties. This dissatisfaction is now being expressed more openly on social media, potentially straining the relationship between civilian leaders and the military which will have long-lasting effects. It also wrote that the election results were a humiliation for Sharif, despite being seen as the favoured candidate of the Pakistani military, which had held significant influence in determining the prime minister.

France 24 called the election "The ‘generals’ elections’ which turned against the military". It also dubbed the election as the “most rigged” in the country's history saying the military was seen as backing Nawaz Sharif. According to TIME, the Pakistani military did everything to "sideline Imran Khan—and failed," but said that the military was continuing to try and prevent the PTI from returning to power calling the election result as an embarrassment for Sharif.

Ryan Grim in an article published by The Intercept wrote the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was poised to manipulate the election outcome to ensure Nawaz Sharif's victory. However, they were overwhelmed by the unexpected surge of PTI support. In a different piece, Grim wrote that the historic turnout in Pakistan was swamping the military's effort to rig the election and that the military has proved unable to suppress the populist movement interrogating its authority. The Economist called the election "botched", but wrote that the military favours the "shabby" result, fearing that it would lose its economic benefits shout it give up power. It also suggested that the despite their efforts, the military leadership did not seem to have as much control as they believed to prevent Khan from winning. It also said the election outcome was a strong message to the military and could potentially mark a shift in its influence over Pakistani politics, while adding that a prolonged period of political instability could occur in the short-term. It called the electoral process "dubious" which was preceded by a coordinated campaign by the military against Imran Khan.

The Guardian noted that suspicions of military rigging arose during election day due to a nationwide mobile phone blackout and the slow counting of results, leading to concerns that the military was exerting influence to secure the PML-N's success. It added that the military's attempts to influence the election appeared to have been thwarted, particularly due to the PTI's effective utilization of social media, given the significant levels of illiteracy in the country. In a separate article, The Guardian noted analysts' views that the election results and potential weak coalition government align with the military's interests, protecting their political and business agendas.

The Financial Times in its editorial called the election results "flawed" and "shocking", at the same time describing it as a rejection of military influence. Pakistani columnist Khurram Husain was quoted in a separate piece in the newspaper as saying that Pakistan will experience not only the influence of the military but also a collaborative endeavour involving the judiciary and major political parties to thwart the PTI from assuming power.

The New York Post, referencing the New York Times article, stated that this election marks the initial instance in Pakistan's history where a party has achieved such success without the support of the military and this will spark a new political chaos in the country. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation the election results did not unfold as per the military's expectations and had shaken the elite. Hasan Askari Rizvi was quoted as saying, "This is a negative vote for the policies that the military was pursuing.".

Sameer Arshad Khatlani in an opinion piece for the Dhaka Tribune wrote "Election results seem to be blowing up in the military establishment’s face which attempted to make Imran Khan irrelevant by jailing him, cracking down PTI". Lipika Pelham wrote for the BBC saying despite PTI-backed independents winning the majority of seats in parliament, they were unlikely to be permitted to form a government.

During an interview with The Wire, Najam Sethi remarked that Imran Khan and the PTI had strongly resisted the influence of the military, which led to the latter resorting to last-minute rigging efforts. Firstpost wrote that the Pakistani military had experienced a setback, at least temporarily, with public sentiment turning against it. It also noted that allegations of electoral fraud by the military put Western countries in a difficult position, given their historic support of the military to ensure the security of the country's nuclear arsenal. It added that "General Asim Munir's tenure may be remembered as one of the darkest for the army, with its reputation suffering greatly under his leadership." It also raised concern over Munir's post-election speech, describing it as uncommon. The Times of India also described Munir as the primary loser of the election. The Indian Express wrote that the unexpected success of the PTI forced the military to manipulate results to avoid an unfavourable outcome. Consequently, there were delays in announcing results, and internet and mobile services were suspended in numerous regions. Meanwhile, Pakistani social media platforms were flooded with videos depicting alleged rigging and manipulation. The Deccan Herald wrote that although the election results represented a significant setback for the military, and would potentially undermine General Munir's position, but it was unlikely that the military will relinquish its influential role in determining the next Prime Minister.

According to Al Jazeera, numerous analysts suggest that Sharif's return to electoral politics was made possible due to the military's decision to support him in the election. However, despite this tacit support from the military, Sharif failed to win.

Foreign Policy wrote that one clear thing is the old methods used to silence people's voices are no longer effective. A new generation of young voters has emerged in Pakistan who are calling for a departure from the past and seeking the ability to elect their leaders, rather than allowing the military, which has historically dominated politics to maintain control over the country. In a separate piece, it wrote that one key factor in the PTI's success in the election was their refusal to let the military control the election's outcome, despite their efforts to ensure the PTI's defeat, and that the PTI's challenge to break the military's grip on politics, has sparked some hope for the future of Pakistan's democracy and wrote that accusations of military's vote manipulation will further fuel anti-establishment feelings in the country.

Reruns

The ECP ordered elections to be held again on 15 February in twenty-six polling stations of the NA-88 Khushab-II constituency in Punjab after a mob destroyed election materials at the office of the returning officer. Due to security issues re-polling was ordered in six polling stations of NA-43 Tank-cum-Dera Ismail Khan constituency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to be held on 17 February. Elections were also ordered repeated in the provincial assembly constituencies in PS-18 Ghotki-I in Sindh and PK-90 Kohat-I in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after election materials were either stolen or destroyed.

International observers

In October 2023, the ECP issued invitations to foreign election observers, emphasizing transparency in the election process. Before the elections, Pakistan received visa applications from 81 foreign journalists and 38 international observers. Visa applications were processed, and accreditation was made mandatory for foreign observers upon arrival in Pakistan. Eligible applicants were in the process of being approved with visas. The Pakistan High Commission in London issued visas to 37 British journalists, including prominent figures such as Christina Lamb of The Times, allowing them to cover the election proceedings in Pakistan.

A team from the Commonwealth, led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, was sent to Pakistan to monitor the elections. The Commonwealth Observer Group (COG), commended the ECP for its role in maintaining peace and smooth conduct during the elections. Despite the recent suspension of mobile and internet services, the observers confirmed that the voting process in Pakistan remained uninterrupted. Jonathan emphasized the importance of casting votes over internet services. The COG released its initial findings, acknowledging the efforts of the ECP and other institutions in organizing the general elections.

Aftermath

Protests were held by the PTI and other parties in cities across Pakistan to protest alleged electoral fraud. Dozens were arrested following protests in Lahore while highways were blocked in Balochistan. On 14 February, the JUI-F's leader Fazal-ur-Rehman said that he rejected the election results and announced that his party would stage protests against the ECP. Awami National Party provincial president for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Aimal Wali Khan in a press conference rejected the results of the elections, claiming they were already decided before voting began. He admitted their past cooperation with the establishment was a mistake and vowed not to work with them anymore. He also accused the military of using the country's resources for their benefit.

On 12 February, Jahangir Tareen and Pervez Khattak announced their decision to retire from politics entirely, while Siraj-ul-Haq resigned from his position as the emir of Jamaat-i-Islami. Later, Khattak stepped down as the leader of the PTI-Parliamentarians while Jamaat-e-Islami unanimously refused to accept Haq's resignation as its leader.

On 16 February, the PTI held a press conference where they labelled the election as the "largest voter fraud" in Pakistan's history, targeting the party and its candidates. They asserted that 85 seats had been unfairly taken away from them.

The party announced plans for nationwide protests on 17 February to denounce widespread electoral rigging. On the same day, PTI-affiliated candidate Salman Akram Raja was arrested in Lahore while participating in a protest.

During the first Senate session after the election, there were widespread calls by members for an inquiry into the election process, with senators from the JI and the PTI urging legal action against the chief election commissioner.

After the election, X (formerly Twitter) became the first social media network to be shut down without explanation. President Alvi commented that the blocking of social media websites in Pakistan reflected a lack of intellectual capacity to manage criticism.

Formation of a new federal government

On 10 February, in an AI-generated victory speech from prison, Imran Khan claimed that based on completed forms provided by polling agents, his party had won a two-thirds majority. On 13 February, the PTI announced that it would try and form a government through its affiliated independent candidates in the national level and in Punjab with the Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM) party. It also said that it would seek to form a coalition with the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan (JI) party to lead a government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Khan had previously said that he would not engage with the PML-N's Nawaz Sharif and the PPP's Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, calling them "corrupt". On 14 February, the JI rejected the proposed coalition with the PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, citing a change in the latter's stance over the formation of the provincial government, as the PTI only offered a coalition at the provincial level, not nationally.

Nawaz Sharif, whose party won a plurality of seats in parliament, said that he would seek to build a governing coalition with the PPP. Since the election, at least six winning independent candidates to the National Assembly have since announced that they would be joining the PML-N, including PTI-affiliated candidate Waseem Qadir, who was previously a PML-N member until 2018. He alleged he was abducted and therefore he re-joined PML-N, but skeptics suggested he was bribed.

After the election results, both Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who were contenders for the prime minister's position, withdrew from the race. At a press conference on 13 February, the PPP's Asif Ali Zardari and the PML-N's Shehbaz Sharif announced that their parties had agreed to form a coalition government. PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said that Shehbaz was the prime ministerial nominee following his elder brother Nawaz's recommendation. PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that he would endorse a PML-N nominee for prime minister and that the PPP would not join the next cabinet. He also expressed a desire to see his father Asif Ali Zardari return as president, and said that his party would field nominees for the chairmanship of the Pakistani Senate and the speakership of the National Assembly. A senior PPP leader was quoted as saying that the party preferred to have a minimal role in the coalition government saying that "We don’t want to take that heavy responsibility.” Analysts suggest that this arrangement seemed to enjoy the backing of the military. JUI-F chief Fazal-ur-Rehman, a long-time ally of the PML-N, declined to support the PML-N and instead suggested that the PML-N should sit on the opposition benches. The coalition agreement between the PML-N and the PPP was finalized on 20 February, with Shahbaz Sharif as prime minister and Asif Ali Zardari as president. Media termed this coalition as "PDM 2.0" in reference to the previous coalition led by PML-N and PPP following Imran Khan's removal as prime minister. Khurshid Shah revealed that the PPP initially approached the PTI instead of the PML-N to explore possibilities in forming a government but was turned down by the PTI.

Only three weeks before the election, Bhutto Zardari had criticized the PML-N saying their "policies had hurt the country’s economy," and remarked "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me", when asked about the possibility of entering into a coalition with the PML-N. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement – Pakistan, the Pakistan Muslim League (Q), the Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party and the Balochistan Awami Party also expressed their intent to join the PML-N and PPP coalition, which enables them to hold a total of 152 directly elected seats in the National Assembly, which is expected to be augmented by gains in reserved seats. In response, Imran Khan called the upcoming coalition a "daylight robbery" and warned "against the misadventure of forming a government with stolen votes." Akhtar Mengal, the president of the Balochistan National Party (Mengal), said that the PML-N and PPP-led coalition would collapse within one and a half years due to the parties "blackmailing" each other, citing previous coalition governments. Observers noted that the increased support for the PTI had changed the power dynamics, making a Sharif-led government seem weak even before it began. A PML-N leader, speaking anonymously, acknowledged that the party might not complete its full five-year term if it forms a government and stated that the party's entire election campaign centred around Nawaz Sharif becoming the prime minister, which resulted in feelings of betrayal and disappointment among supporters when Nawaz chose to nominate Shehbaz for the position instead. JUI-F chief Fazal-ur-Rehman also reiterated his belief that the incoming coalition government is unlikely to complete its full five-year tenure. He further cautioned about the risk of a "system collapse" in the country due to excessive interference from the establishment and added that the establishment aimed to ensure that people aligned with their preferences were elected to the assemblies.

On 27 February, a leaked video surfaced showing MQM-P leader Syed Mustafa Kamal, where he was shown saying during an MQM-P party meeting that PML-N leaders informed him about the PPP's claim that the "MQM-P’s mandate is 100% fake". Kamal later confirmed the authenticity of this video. Later on the same day, Sindh Governor and MQM-P leader Kamran Tessori also acknowledged in another leaked audio recording that the MQM-P "did not get votes in this election," and emphasized the difference from the 2018 general election when MQM-P obtained seven seats, which was their actual vote bank.

On 16 February, senior PTI official Asad Qaiser said that Imran Khan had nominated Omar Ayub Khan, a grandson of former military ruler Muhammad Ayub Khan, as the PTI's nominee for prime minister, despite him being in hiding over charges relating to the May 9 riots. The PTI also nominated Mian Aslam Iqbal and Ali Amin Gandapur as its respective nominees for chief minister in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Later that day however, PTI official Muhammad Ali Saif stated that the party had chosen to be in the opposition both at the federal level and in Punjab, following the directives of Imran Khan.

On 19 February, the PTI announced that it would form an alliance with the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) solely to secure its portion of reserved seats in the National, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies. Following the announcement, nearly all PTI-backed independent candidates in national and provincial assemblies submitted affidavits to the ECP, officially joining the SIC and approached the ECP to claim their reserved seats. However, the PPP, the PML-N, and the MQM-P challenged the allocation of reserved seats to the PTI/SIC bloc, arguing that the latter did not qualify as a "parliamentary party". PTI chair Gohar Ali also emphasized that an NA session could not be called without first notifying the reserved seats for the PTI-backed SIC bloc. The ECP withheld the allocation of 78 out of the total 226 reserved seats for women and minorities in the national and four provincial assemblies. By 26 February, these 78 reserved seats were pending allocation to the PTI/SIC, awaiting the ECP's decision.

Inauguration of the National Assembly

President Arif Alvi declined to convene the National Assembly's inaugural session, which is typically summoned within 21 days of the general elections as per the constitution. He was also of the view that Assembly was not complete and therefore the ECP should distribute the reserved seats for women and minorities to the PTI-backed SIC bloc. As a result, he faced significant criticism from the PPP and the PML-N who asserted that the President's action amounts to "abrogating the Constitution" by not convening the session, and warned of potential legal consequences. Imran Khan also endorsed Alvi's decision to decline the summoning of the session and said that they were drafting a letter to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), urging for the condition that any of its discussions with the incoming PML-N/PPP coalition government should be contingent upon an independent audit of the general election. This action was heavily criticized by the PML-N and the PPP, who argued that sending such a letter would be tantamount to inviting foreign intervention in the country's domestic affairs. On 28 February, the National Assembly Secretariat scheduled the inaugural session for 29 February at 10 a.m., bypassing the need for notification from Alvi. At the very last moment, Alvi relented and approved a summary for calling the inaugural session late at night, albeit with reservations about the tone of the summary from caretaker prime minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar.

On 29 February, a total of 302 newly elected legislators took their oaths, marking the commencement of the 16th National Assembly. The maiden session, however, was disrupted by chaos and slogans in favour of Imran Khan. This was the first time where PTI MNAs were able to chant Imran Khan's name and display his photos on live TV since a ban was imposed on mentioning his name on television. The PTI's nominee for the premiership, Omar Ayub Khan, along with PTI chair Gohar Ali Khan, emphasized during their addresses to the session that the Assembly remained incomplete as MNAs nominated for reserved seats were unable to attend the session and take the oath.

Election of the Prime Minister

On 2 March, Shehbaz Sharif of the PML-N and PTI-backed independent candidate Omar Ayub Khan submitted their nomination papers for the prime ministerial elections. The next day on 3 March, Shehbaz was re-elected as Prime Minister of Pakistan for the second time, securing 201 votes against the 92 votes received by Omar Ayub Khan. Due to the absence of a clear majority for any single party in the assembly, Shehbaz was elected with the joint support from PML-N's allies such as the PPP, MQM-P, PML-Q, BAP, PML-Z, IPP, NP among others. He would soon afterwards be officially sworn in. During the session, PTI-backed SIC MNAs chanted slogans alleging that Shehbaz came to power through rigging with Omar Ayub terming the Shahbaz' PM election as 'illegal'. Omar Ayub Khan also condemned censorship in his speech after the state-run Pakistan Television Corporation was reported to have abruptly ceased live broadcasting as soon as he had started to speak, comparing it with live coverage of Shehbaz's statements.

Election of the President

The coalition agreement which was reached also called for Asif Ali Zardari to return as President of Pakistan. The Pakistani parliament is scheduled to elect the new President on 9 March 2024; the president is elected by members of the Senate, National Assembly and all four provincial assemblies.

Formation of provincial governments

On 23 February 2024, the 18th Punjab Assembly convened approximately 313 newly elected MPAs were sworn in. This included 193 from the PML-N, 98 PTI-backed independents, 13 from the PPP, 10 from the PML-Q, five from the IPP, and one each from the TLP and the PML-Z. On 26 February, Nawaz Sharif's daughter, Maryam Nawaz, was elected as the first female chief minister of Punjab with 220 votes in the assembly, while her opponent PTI-backed candidate Rana Aftab Ahmad Khan boycotted the elections. The next day, the PTI announced that it would convene a separate Punjab Assembly session to select its chief minister, speaker, and deputy speaker, asserting a majority with 250 MPAs, including those from reserved seats for women and minorities. They labeled the election of Maryam Nawaz to the chief ministership "a stolen mandate" and asserted that she was defeated on her provincial assembly seat from PP-159 Lahore-XV by a PTI-backed candidate, Mehr Sharafat.

On 24 February, 147 MPAs of the 16th Sindh Assembly took their oath of office, of which 84 MPAs from the PPP, 28 from the MQM-P, 14 independents, including those backed by the PTI, and two each from the GDA and JI. On 26 February, PPP leader Syed Murad Ali Shah was re-elected as the Sindh Chief Minister for a third consecutive term, receiving 112 votes. His opponent, Ali Khursheedi of the MQM-P, garnered 36 votes.

On 28 February, the 12th Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa convened as more than 115 newly elected MPAs were sworn in. Among those sworn in were 87 PTI-backed SIC lawmakers, nine from the JUI-F, eight from the PML-N, five from the PPP, two from the PTI-Parliamentarians, and four independents. The next day, Ali Amin Gandapur, a PTI backed independent candidate was elected as the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, securing 90 votes. His opponent, Ibadullah Khan of the PML-N, received 16 votes.

On 28 February, 57 newly elected MPAs of the 12th Baloch Assembly were sworn in where the PPP and the PML-N emerged as the two largest parties. On March 2, Sarfraz Bugti was elected unopposed as the new Chief Minister of Balochistan with the joint support of the PPP and the PML-N.

Reactions

Domestic

After polling closed, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar said that the elections were a "momentous occasion". He praised the enthusiasm of the people of Pakistan and expressed appreciation for their participation in the polling process, adding that "the high voter turnout is a clear indication of public commitment to shaping the future of our country."

Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja thanked the nation for the successful election and expressed gratitude to all stakeholders, including government bodies, security agencies, media, and voters. He urged returning officers to ensure timely results delivery. The Pakistan Armed Forces, through its media wing ISPR, extended congratulations to the nation for the peaceful conduct of the general elections, emphasizing their role in advancing democracy and fulfilling the aspirations of the people. Chief of the Army Staff Asim Munir urged citizens to move on from the politics of "anarchy and polarization", adding that a stable hand was needed to unite "Pakistan's diverse polity", and to make "democracy functional and purposeful".

President Arif Alvi, stated that the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) could have averted the uncertainty surrounding the election results and reminded of his efforts to introduce them in the country's electoral process.

In a message from jail, Imran Khan claimed that the PTI won 170 seats, achieving a two-thirds majority in the 2024 elections. He emphasized the power of the electorate and called for the protection of their votes. According to Khan's sister, Aleema Khan, he described the rigging as the "Mother of all rigging" and ridiculed the PML-N, saying “Instead of honouring the vote, the ‘selected ones’ have honoured the boot,” implying that the PML-N prioritized military influence over respecting the electoral process.

The Pakistan Foreign Ministry in a statement expressed surprise at international criticism regarding the elections, citing the complexity of the electoral process and the strong participation of millions of voters.

The day after the election, the Pakistan Stock Exchange shed 2,200 points on opening, or 3.6% of its value, as delayed results and prospects of a hung parliament loomed.

Dawn in its editorial titled "Respect the mandate" stated it is becoming increasingly clear that there is widespread anger and resentment towards the military's continuous involvement in civilian affairs, and urged the armed forces to abandon its grudge against the PTI. It added that "though the public’s decision was quite evident, some quarters still attempted to stamp their will over the election results." It also noted that "the state must realise that, sometimes, a vote for the underdog is a vote against the establishment". Dawn referred to the largest number of independent candidates winning in a party-based election as a significant development in Pakistan's electoral history, describing it as a "seismic shift" and a clear message from the public that sidelining PTI and depriving them of their election symbol would not alter the election's trajectory.

The Express Tribune in its editorial stated "the fact that the people of Pakistan have made a choice, and have voted for parliamentary democracy must come as a soothing consolation." Hamid Mir stated that PML-N supporters claimed to have received more votes on the day after the election.

Hina Jilani, co-founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, expressed her astonishment at the election outcome, stating that she, like everyone else, was taken aback, saying that "It’s strange for me to say this, but I don't think the Pakistani public has ever played a strong role in enforcing democracy in this country." and that "we have not seen a public uprising against the military takeover of political space in this country."

The day after the election concluded, several notable Pakistani journalists, which include Syed Talat Hussain, Meher Bukhari, and Hamid Mir, took to Twitter to openly criticize the ECP, labeling its performance as a 'farcical failure' due to its inability to efficiently deliver election results.

International

  •   Australia – The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in a press statement expressed regret saying that "the Pakistani people were restricted in their choice, since not all political parties were allowed to contest these elections."
  •   European UnionHigh Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell called upon the relevant authorities to "ensure a timely and full investigation of all reported election irregularities and to implement the recommendations of the upcoming EU Election Expert Mission report."
  •   United KingdomForeign Secretary David Cameron in a statement noted "serious concerns raised about the fairness and lack of inclusivity of the elections" while also acknowledging "the restrictions imposed on internet access on polling day, significant delays to the reporting of results and claims of irregularities in the counting process".
  •   United States – In a rare strong statement, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller called for a "full investigation into the claims of interference or fraud" during the elections while reiterating to work with whoever forms the next government. Several US lawmakers expressed concerns over the conduct of polls, poll-related violence, and restrictions on freedom of speech. White House spokesperson expressed concern about "intimidation and voter suppression," emphasizing that they were closely monitoring the situation in Pakistan.

Following the election, Pakistan's classification in the Democracy Index was revised downward by the Economist Intelligence Unit, shifting it from a hybrid regime to an authoritarian regime.

On 27 February, Moody's retained Pakistan's ratings at ‘Caa3’ with a stable outlook. Nevertheless, the agency emphasized significantly high risks of liquidity and external vulnerability challenges, terming the election "controversial." The agency suggested that this situation could severely limit the decision-making capacity of the incoming coalition government. Earlier in February 2023, Moody's downgraded Pakistan's rating from Caa1 to Caa3.

On 28 February, at least 31 members of the United States Congress wrote a letter to US President Joe Biden, urging him to withhold recognition of the incoming coalition government until a "thorough, transparent, and credible" audit of the election is conducted. The letter also demanded that the United States cease military and other cooperation with Pakistan. Among those critical of the results was Congressman Ro Khanna who also alleged that the Pakistani military was backing Nawaz Sharif. In an interview, Congressman Greg Casar expressed concerns about American hypocrisy regarding Pakistani democracy, stating that he has directly contacted the State Department about it. He also warned Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States that existing laws could be utilized to reduce aid to Pakistan due to its human rights abuses.

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