Former cricket star claims election victory in Pakistan amid fraud allegations

Imran Khan declares victory in Pakistan’s general elections

Pakistan's former cricket star Imran Khan is poised to become the new prime minister as his center-right party has emerged as the single majority party in Wednesday's general elections marred by allegations of "manipulation" and "engineering".

Pakistan watchers in the USA today doubted the fairness of the general election for which Imran Khan's party received the army's backing while the PML-N and the PPP ran their campaigns "under constraints".

But supporters of jailed ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif said the process was an assault on democracy in a country that has a history of military rule.

The polling started at 8:00 a.m. local time Wednesday and continued uninterrupted up to 6:00 p.m. local time. Pakistan's military deployed 350,000 troops countrywide at polling stations.

Early voting was heavy at some polling stations in Islamabad, the capital, and also in the Punjab provincial capital, with several political party leaders standing in line to cast their ballots.

A social activist Marriyum Bibi, expressing her dismay over the situation, said, "It will deprive the women voters of their basic right to cast votes as 310 combined polling stations are unlikely to see more female voters due to social taboos".

Only hours after polls had closed, Shahbaz Sharif claimed the vote had been "rigged", citing complaints that soldiers stationed in polling stations had thrown out poll monitors from political parties during the counting.

"There's no conspiracy, nor any pressure in delay of the results".

More than a dozen TV channels in Pakistan, based on official but partial counts, are projecting - using their own, undisclosed methodologies - that Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party is getting as many as 119 seats of the 270 National Assembly seats that were contested.

A visibly exhausted Khan cut a conciliatory tone in a wide-ranging address to the nation following a controversial contest hit by accusations from major political parties of poll rigging and long delays in still unreleased official results.

In addition to charges of fraud, the vote was overshadowed by a suicide bombing early on July 25 which killed 31 people outside a polling station in the southwestern city of Quetta.

Nawaz Sharif, who has been sentenced to 10 years in jail in a corruption case by the country's top court, has already been disqualified for life and remains barred from holding any public office, including his party's leadership.

Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has inched ahead of PML-N in recent national polls, but even if it gets the most votes, it will likely struggle to win a majority, raising the prospect of weeks of haggling to form a messy coalition government.

The party not only amassed over 8 million votes - second after the PML-N - in 2013 but it also managed to form a provincial government in the KP.

According to a CNN report, South Asia expert Michael Kugelman states that despite Khan's promise of a "New Pakistan", the military will continue to hold a dominant position in the hierarchy of power in the nation.

In a separate incident, four people were injured in a blast outside a political camp in Larkana in Sindh province, the home of the Bhutto family.

The Independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a statement last week said there were "ample grounds to doubt" the legitimacy of the elections and criticized "blatant, aggressive and unabashed attempts to manipulate the outcome of the elections".

"We made history today", said Khan.

The PPP, which has been overtaken by Khan's PTI as the main challenger to PML-N, has also alleged intimidation by spy agencies.

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