Jailed Imran Khan rules out alliance with rivals to rule Pakistan

A vendor holds the poster with a portrait of Pakistan’s jailed former prime minister Imran Khan, at a market in Lahore on 9 February, 2024, a day after Pakistan's national electionsAFP

Jailed ex-prime minister Imran Khan ruled out an alliance with Pakistan’s two largest political parties on Tuesday after his candidates took the most seats in last week’s general election.

Candidates loyal to Khan defied a crackdown blocking them from campaigning and forcing them to run as independents, with a combined showing bigger than any party in Thursday’s National Assembly polls.

The upset stopped the army-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) from securing a ruling majority.

Speaking in Adiala Jail -- where he has spent much of his time since his arrest in August -- Khan accused both the PML-N and second-placed Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of corruption.

“We will neither sit with the PML-N nor with the PPP,” he told a handful of reporters covering a procedural hearing at the prison outside the capital Islamabad.

We are going to challenge the election rigging in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and we will consider the alliance later
Imran Khan, Former Prime Minister of Pakistan

There have been widespread allegations of vote-rigging and result manipulation after authorities switched off the country’s mobile phone network on election day and the count took more than 24 hours.

“We are going to challenge the election rigging in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and we will consider the alliance later,” said Khan, clutching a string of prayer beads.

The remarks are among the first Khan has made publicly since the poll five days ago returned a boon for his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, despite it being effectively dismantled.

Khan was ousted by a vote of no confidence in 2022 and thereafter waged an unprecedented campaign of defiance against the nation’s military kingmakers.

He has been buried under dozens of court cases, convicted numerous times and barred from standing for office -- all he claims orchestrated to prevent his return to power.

PTI’s senior leaders were subject to sweeping arrests and the party barred from appearing on ballot papers in a crackdown analysts agree was planned by the military establishment.

Independents loyal to Khan still secured around 90 of the 266 elected seats for Pakistan’s parliament, but PTI insist its returns would have been far higher without rigging.

PTI has largely been focussed on challenging the legitimacy of the vote, rather than speaking with other parties.

PML-N and PPP have meanwhile been locked in negotiations to enter government together. The parties previously entered a broad coalition to oust Khan two years ago.

“Once a decision is reached, the nation will be informed,” PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif told reporters Tuesday. “We have to move forward in the national interest.”