Ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party wins by-elections

AA / Karachi, Pakistan / Aamir Latif

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party won a crucial by-election on Sunday, beating the ruling alliance in close polls, according to unofficial results.

By-elections were held in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where Khan’s party is in power, as well as in Sindh.

Khan ran in seven of the eight electoral constituencies, aiming to boost his campaign to pressure the government to call a snap election, which is normally scheduled for October 2023.

According to unofficial results, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) came out on top in six national constituencies and two provincial constituencies.

Candidates from the ruling coalition, meanwhile, were leading in two national constituencies and one provincial constituency.

Khan, who has taken to the streets since being ousted in a vote of no confidence from parliament in April, had called the vote a « referendum » on his popularity.

He decisively defeated his rival, Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, of the nationalist Awami Party, in the northwest city of Peshawar, a PTI stronghold.

He also beat Abid Sher Ali of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in the northeast city of Faisalabad.

Khan, however, faced tight polls in Charsadda and Mardan constituencies in Khyber-Pakhtunkwa and Nankana Sahib districts in Punjab provinces.

The only seat he lost was in the country’s commercial capital, Karachi, where Abdul Hakeem Baloch of the center-left Pakistan People’s Party narrowly won.

Another crucial poll took place in the city of Multan, where Ali Musa Gilani of PPP, son of former Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, defeated Mehar Bano Qureshi of PTI, daughter of former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

All of these seats had been declared vacant following the resignation of PTI MPs in protest at Khan’s ousting.

The cricketer-turned-politician has drawn large numbers of supporters to rallies since his ousting, which he claims was the result of a US-sponsored « foreign conspiracy ». Islamabad and Washington, however, have repeatedly refuted these allegations.

The vote came as the country grapples with the aftermath of devastating floods that have ravaged a third of the country, affecting millions of people.

*Translated from English by Mourad Belhaj

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