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Imran Khan: Pakistani youth make scathing reproaches to the military elite by supporting the imprisoned leader

Imran Khan: Pakistani youth make scathing reproaches to the military elite by supporting the imprisoned leader


Islamabad, Pakistan CNN —

His political party is effectively banned, his speeches are banned on television and he faces at least 14 years in prison. But as Pakistan's election results show, Imran Khan cannot be suppressed.

Independent candidates affiliated with former prime minister Pakistan Tehereek-e-Insaf (PTI) party secured the highest number of parliamentary seats in last week's national elections, the Election Commission said on Sunday.

It is a resounding victory for an incarcerated Khan who two years ago faced a dramatic ouster as prime minister and, more recently, a crackdown by the military, according to analysts, intended to thwart the return to power of cricket icons.

You kept my trust and your massive turnout stunned everyone, an AI-generated video of Khan, shared by the PTI, imitating his voice, told his millions of followers soon after his victory. Now show the strength to protect your vote. Khan's team has already used AI to deliver their speeches from behind bars.

The continued success of candidates aligned with Khan marks a seismic moment in the country's recent history: He delivered a scathing rebuke to the powerful military, a generally untouchable force that has long sat at the pinnacle of power in Pakistan and, according to aides de Khan and many supporters suppressed his party.

As a Pakistani, it was deeply encouraging to witness the collective outcry against injustice manifested through the vote, said Hashim Ali Dogar, 20, from the city of Lahore.

We have demonstrated our resilience in the face of injustice and political victimization, and we are ready to do it again.

Protests in Pakistan as election results trickle in

Although PTI-backed independents won the largest number of seats in Parliament, questions loom over what Pakistan's next government will look like.

None of the three main parties won the seats needed to declare a majority in Parliament and, therefore, will not be able to form a government on their own, leaving it unclear who will be chosen as the country's next prime minister.

The results were also announced more than three days after polling closed, sparking accusations of electoral fraud from the PTI.

Shayan Bashir Nawaz, PTI information secretary for Punjab province, claimed that an analysis conducted by the party suggested significant discrepancies in some National Assembly seats and called for peaceful protests against the delayed results .

We will take all options available to us to correct this mistake, we will follow all legal options and we will follow all constitutional options, said Raoof Hassam, a senior PTI leader.

The Army said it remains committed to maintaining peace and security in the country and is ready to extend unwavering support in safeguarding the democratic traditions of our state.

If the PTI-backed candidates succeed in forming a government, it will drag Pakistan into an unprecedented era, in which the ruling party is seemingly at odds with the military, while its leader remains behind bars.

But the chances of seeing a PTI-led government currently appear slim, according to Madiha Afzal, a senior fellow at the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution in Washington. They should join a parliamentary party and also seek a coalition. They will also have to ensure that their candidates do not change.

Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 220 million people, has grappled since its creation in 1947 with political and social instability following a traumatic partition that hastily divided British India along religious in two independent countries.

It is a country where militant attacks are common, poverty is endemic and violence against women is widespread. Ruled for much of its 76 years by political dynasties or military institutions, analysts say decades of corruption and nepotism have disenfranchised swathes of the population, who were clamoring for a clean break with the country's past. Pakistan.

Facing a lingering economic crisis, many young voters in Pakistan, where the median age is just 22.7, see Khan's PTI as a departure from elite political dynasties they perceive as out of touch problems facing the population of the country.

When he came to power in 2018, it was, according to analysts, with the support of the army. But when he fell out of favor with the generals a few years later and was dramatically ousted from power in a 2022 parliamentary vote of no confidence for economic mismanagement, rather than back down, Khan led a revolt unprecedented.

He drew tens of thousands of people to nationwide street rallies, where he criticized the military and accused them of orchestrating his ouster with U.S. help, accusations denied by the army and the United States. Millions of people listened to Khan's emotional speeches online, in which he spoke of rooting out corruption and bringing change to Pakistan's turbulent politics.

His message and skillful use of social media inspired many young Pakistanis.

Everyone can see where the preference lies. I wanted to give my first vote to Imran Khan, said Rabiya Arooj, a 22-year-old voter from the capital, Islamabad.

Yet as Khan's popularity grew, so did his enemies, including, according to his supporters, powerful members of the military-backed establishment.

He was charged with dozens of counts, arrested and sentenced to prison in three different cases, sending shockwaves across the country. His party's cricket bat symbol was not allowed to appear on the ballot paper, sparking accusations of rigging ahead of the vote.

The scale of the crackdown led many analysts to believe that Khan's longtime rival Nawaz Sharif, a three-time former prime minister and scion of the elite Sharif dynasty, would take over the top job.

The election result shows young Pakistanis' disenchantment with the military establishment and politics as usual, said Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador and researcher at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC and the Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy in Abu Dhabi.

Manahil Ahmed, who voted for the first time, said young people had made their voices heard.

Pakistan has come to the one realization it had always struggled with before, that all power truly rests only on its will, he said.

The feeling of emerging victorious despite all the difficulties stacked against us is now profound. Deep enough that people come to the conviction that they will now commit twice as hard to protect this victory.

Much of the future remains uncertain, with time running out to establish a coalition government.

Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the other leading candidate in the race and scion of another political dynasty, said their parties would work together to bring stability to Pakistan.

The unknown makes many Pakistanis feel a mix of emotions.

On the one hand, it is empowering to see young people actively participating and making their voices heard, said Sundas Kalsoom from Peshawar city. However, the delay in election results is frustrating and can lead to uncertainty and skepticism about the fairness of the process.

Haqqani, the former ambassador, said it would be in Pakistan's interest if the people's mandate was respected.

The worst-case scenario would be violence, repression and backlash like in Egypt in the aftermath of the so-called Arab Spring, he said, referring to anti-government protests that spread across much of the country. Middle East in the early 2010s.

Despite the uncertainty, analysts say one thing is clear.

The decisiveness with which the Pakistani public voted for the oppressed speaks volumes about the health of democracy, according to Fahd Humayun, assistant professor of political science and Neubauer scholar at Tufts University.

Although public trust in the country's institutions has clearly fluctuated in recent years, these elections, for all their flaws, demonstrated that there was considerable political mobilization around the issue of representation, which should inspire hope for the future of Pakistan.




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