Lahore July 18 2022: Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has again called for an early national election after his party seized control of the state assembly in Punjab, the country’s most populous province.
Twenty seats were up for grabs in the Punjab by-election, which was seen as a popularity test for the former international cricket star dismissed by a no-confidence vote in April.
His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party won 15, with the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) of current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif taking four, and one going to an independent.
Sunday’s vote was also seen as a bellwether for national elections that must be held by October next year, although Khan has campaigned across the country for an earlier poll since being dismissed.
“The only way forward from here is to hold free and transparent elections,” Khan tweeted early on Monday after the Punjab votes were tallied.
“Any other way will only lead to increased political uncertainty and further economic chaos.”
Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Punjab state’s main city of Lahore, said the election victory “is a huge comeback for Khan”.
“You cannot rule out the possibility that he may become the prime minister again if there are free and fair elections and if his party performs well as it has done in Punjab,” he said.
Khan has drawn thousands to rallies since being removed, giving lengthy speeches claiming the government was imposed on Pakistan under a United States-led conspiracy.
He also blames the current government for soaring inflation, although most analysts agree Sharif inherited the country’s economic woes – which got some relief last week following an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to resume a rescue package.