Former cricket star Imran Khan claims victory in Pakistan’s violence-plagued election 

  • Former national cricket team captain and longtime opposition leader Imran Khan claimed victory in Pakistan’s fraught election Thursday.
  • Unofficial results indicate that his party, Pakistan Tehreek e-Insaf, is leading in more than 110 seats in the National Assembly, while the rival and incumbent Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) is currently leading in nearly 70.
  • Only the second democratic national election in Pakistan's history, this year's contest will leave a legacy marred with violence, arrests, and allegations of vote rigging and suppression by the military.
Pakistani cricketer turned politician Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice), speaks to supporters during a campaign rally ahead of the general election in Karachi on July 22, 2018.
RIZWAN TABASSUM | AFP | Getty Images
Pakistani cricketer turned politician Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice), speaks to supporters during a campaign rally ahead of the general election in Karachi on July 22, 2018.

Former national cricket team captain and longtime opposition leader Imran Khan claimed victory in Pakistan's fraught election Thursday.

Unofficial results indicate that his party, Pakistan Tehreek e-Insaf, is leading in more than 110 seats in the National Assembly, while the rival and incumbent Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) is currently leading in nearly 70.

Khan called the election "historic," addressing the nation from the outskirts of the capital Islamabad. "I say this in front of you today... We will run Pakistan in a way in which it has never been run before, deliver the kind of governance never delivered before."

Khan's opponents, including the PML-N and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), are rejecting the outcome.

Official results are yet to be released, but this year's contest — only the second democratic election in a country ruled by the military for almost half its history — will leave a legacy marred with violence, arrests, and allegations of vote rigging, harassment and suppression by military and security forces that activists say was meant to push Khan's party to victory.

In his speech, Khan promised he would address all rigging allegations and that his government would investigate all rigging complaints. The former athlete has long cast himself as a crusader against the state's entrenched corruption, promising to fight poverty and turn the country of 208 million into an "Islamic welfare state."

Military involvement

Among those vocally accusing the military of election intervention is Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister and leader of the PML-N, currently in jail on corruption charges. His brother, Shehbaz Sharif, was expected by many to win the prime ministership. Sharif's government had previously criticized the military's powerful hold over the country's affairs, leading him to fall out of favor with what is often referred to as the country's "establishment."

The military has been accused of silencing dissenting press and harassing politicians and activists, as well as supporting insurgent groups. The latter led the Donald Trump administration in January to suspend security funding to Pakistan until it visibly improved its counterterrorism efforts.

More than 40 people were killed and more than 60 injured at voting sites around the country in suicide blasts Wednesday, particularly in Pakistan's northwestern Balochistan province. Most of the attacks were claimed by the Islamic State.

Khan first ran for prime minister in 2013, an election also stained by terrorism: 170 people were killed in attacks largely carried out by the Pakistani Taliban.