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Pakistan set for coalition rule after troubled election, as ex-PM Sharif trails rival Khan, and China, IMF bailouts loom

Pakistan’s general election on Thursday has produced a hung parliament, setting the stage for the formation of a weak coalition government whose first job will be to negotiate fresh financial bailouts from the International Monetary Fund and China.

Independent candidates backed by jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have overcome strenuous efforts by the country’s military-run establishment to form the single largest grouping in the National Assembly, winning 99 seats.

However, the party fell far short of a majority, according to results belatedly announced on Friday by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Voter turnout was a modest 42 per cent, well below the average of 50 per cent for the general elections of 2008, 2013 and 2018.


Explosions on eve of general elections in Pakistan kill 26, authorities on high alert

In part, this was because of formidable hurdles faced by PTI candidates, including the loss of their electoral symbol, a cricket bat, and the detention of key leaders.

Despite them, the PTI “has demonstrated resilience, leveraging social media effectively to maintain a prominent lead”, said Farwa Aamer, director of South Asia initiatives at the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York.

“However, it’s essential to recognise that no government formation can proceed without considering the intricate dynamics involving the country’s influential military establishment,” she said.

The PTI’s biggest rivals, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party of three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and ex-president Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), have won enough seats, 71 and 53 respectively, between them to form the next government with the