Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan won another National Assembly seat in a weekend by-election, officials said yesterday, as he leads a “long march” of thousands of supporters to Islamabad.
Khan, a retired international cricket star and philanthropist, has been demanding an early general election since being controversially ousted in April by a no-confidence vote, heaping pressure on the government.
His latest win in the northwest of the country was confirmed by the Electoral Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
“We didn’t even run an election campaign for Imran Khan there, but he won with a big margin,” Fawad Chaudhry, a senior Khan aide and former information minister, told private TV channel HUM News.
The ECP ruled this month that Khan had failed to properly declare the value of gifts he received from foreign leaders while in office.
Lawyers initially said the ruling amounted to a five year disqualification from office, but later backtracked.
The matter is now before the courts, which last week allowed Khan to contest the latest by-election.
It is one of several legal battles Khan has been entangled in since his exit and comes after he won six out of eight seats in a by-election earlier this month.
Individuals can stand in multiple constituencies in Pakistan elections and choose which to forfeit if they win more than one.
“It is established now that his support has become nationwide,” political analyst Hasan Askari told AFP.
“For the common man, the benchmark of a government’s success is livelihood and the economy, and the present government has not succeeded in these fields.”
Khan was voted into power in 2018 on an anti-corruption platform by an electorate weary of dynastic politics.
But his falling out with a military accused of helping his rise sealed his fate.
Since then, he has railed against the establishment and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government, which he says was imposed on Pakistan by a “conspiracy” involving the United States.
The political wrangling has overshadowed relief efforts following the devastating floods that left a third of the country under water — and a repair bill of at least $30bn.
Pakistan’s economy also remains in a dire state, with high inflation, a nose-diving rupee and dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
Khan is currently leading thousands of supporters in a convoy of cars, trucks and buses from Lahore to reach the capital Islamabad on Friday in an effort to press the government to call an early election.
His impending arrival has the capital on edge, with hundreds of shipping containers positioned at key intersections, ready to block marchers should they try to storm the government enclave.
Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan (centre on truck) leads an anti-government march in Muridke district, about 29km from Lahore, towards the federal capital Islamabad, demanding early elections. (AFP)