Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan claimed victory on Thursday in tense general elections, following accusations of poll rigging by rival parties.
“We were successful and we were given a mandate,” Khan said during a live broadcast, adding there would be “no political victimization” in his government.
Khan assured his political rivals that his government would investigate any and all claims of electoral rigging, adding that in his opinion this was the most “free and fair” election in Pakistan’s history.
The speech, which outlined some of Khan’s policy plans, included proposals for trade with India, peace with Afghanistan and mutually beneficial ties with Iran and Saudi Arabia. He said Pakistan should play the role of mediator in the Middle East and help our friends come together.
“Peace in Afghanistan will mean there will be peace in Pakistan,” he said. New Delhi and Islamabad should also come together to resolve the issue of Kashmir, he added. Khan said China’s friendship with Pakistan would continue and would be expanded along mutually beneficial lines.
Referring to Pakistan’s ties with the U.S., he said they had become too one-sided and that cannot continue.
Khan also reiterated his desire for a social welfare state, saying his government’s policies would focus on the impoverished. He said he wanted to convert the P.M. House into a public space and would seek out simpler accommodations for his use as Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Results were still being tallied on Thursday, hours after Khan’s supporters took to the streets to celebrate winning an election that opponents have said was rigged in his favor.
The unprecedented delay, along with a surprisingly strong lead in early results for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, have fueled widespread fears over the legitimacy of the exercise. Newspapers and television channels have been predicting victory for PTI since late Wednesday.
By Thursday partial, unofficial results gave him at least 100 seats so far in the National Assembly. A majority of 137 seats is needed to form a government.
Election authorities have not yet confirmed when they expect to announce the complete results. Some reports suggested it would not be until Thursday evening at the earliest.
The short but acrimonious campaign season largely boiled down to a two-way race between Khan’s PTI and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) of ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, whose brother Shahbaz is leading its campaign.
Khan, who captained Pakistan to their World Cup cricket victory in 1992, vowed during the campaign to tackle widespread graft while building an “Islamic welfare state.” But he was dogged by accusations he was benefiting from a “silent coup” by the generals, which targeted the PMLN.
Sharif was ousted from power last year and jailed over a corruption conviction days before the vote, removing Khan’s most dangerous rival. Khan has also increasingly catered to hardline religious groups, sparking fears a win for PTI could embolden Islamist extremists.