Pakistan main parties reject election outcome

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AFP: Pakistan’s main parties rejected the outcome of elections won by cricket star Imran Khan and announced protests demanding new polls Friday, after foreign observers criticised the pivotal vote over rigging allegations.The announcement by the All Parties Conference (APC), including the outgoing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), is a fresh obstacle to power for Khan on a day when delayed results finally showed he had won an emphatic victory — though he will need to seek a coalition to form a government.

The nationwide election held Wednesday has been criticised by the United States, the European Union and other observers after widespread claims that the powerful military was trying to fix the playing field in Khan’s favour.

It had been dubbed “Pakistan’s dirtiest election” but for now, Khan’s victory represents an end to decades of rotating leadership between the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that was punctuated by periods of military rule.

The PML-N and other parties have alleged “blatant” rigging over the vote count.

“We think a robbery has been committed,” Maulana Fazalur Rehman, head of the religious Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) party, told reporters.

“We will run a movement for the holding of elections again. There will be protests… We will not allow democracy to be taken hostage by the establishment,” he said, using a word widely understood in Pakistan to mean the military.

The PML-N, which claims it was the target of military manipulation, said it would join in the protests although no date was immediately announced.

“I fully agree with it. The worst kind of irregularities have been committed, which are unprecedented,” party leader Shahbaz Sharif said.

However, Sharif said he would need to consult with his party’s leadership over a decision by the APC not to take the oath swearing in members of parliament.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which has won the third largest number of seats in the vote, was notably absent from the APC.

In a later press conference, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said his party also rejected the election results, but vowed it would try to convince the other parties to participate in the parliamentary process.

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