Imran Khan is on course to become Pakistan’s new prime minister, early results from the country’s election suggest.
With nearly half the votes counted from July 25election, the ex-cricket star’s PTI party is in the lead.
It is expected to fall short of an overall majority and to seek coalition partners. Officials deny claims of vote rigging made by Imran Khan’s rivals.
With votes counted in 47% of stations, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party was leading in 113 of the 272 National Assembly constituencies being contested, Pakistan’s Dawn Newspaper reported, citing Election Commission figures.
Oxford-educated Imran Khan, who led Pakistan to victory in cricket’s World Cup in 1992, first entered politics in 1996 but struggled for years on the political sidelines. In the lead-up to this vote, the 65-year-old faced accusations that he was benefiting from military interference against his rivals.
Campaigning has been marred by violence. On voting day a bomb killed 31 people at a polling station.
This election will mark only the second time that a civilian government has handed power to another after serving a full term in Pakistan.
However, the party of disgraced former PM Nawaz Sharif has rejected the results, as have a host of smaller parties, all alleging vote-rigging and manipulation.
The party of assassinated former PM Benazir Bhutto, the historically liberal PPP, is widely expected to come third.
The party is now fronted by Benazir Bhutto’s son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, a 29-year-old Oxford University graduate.
The turnout has been estimated at between 50% and 55% out of 106 million registered voters, AFP reports.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to announce an investment of $46 billion in Pakistan.
The focus of the spending is on building a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – a network of roads, railway and pipelines between the two.
They will run some 1,865 miles from Gwadar in Pakistan to China’s western Xinjiang region.
The projects will give China direct access to the Indian Ocean and beyond.
This marks a major advance in China’s plans to boost its economic influence in Central and South Asia, correspondents say, and far exceeds US spending in Pakistan.
“Pakistan, for China, is now of pivotal importance. This has to succeed and be seen to succeed,” Reuters quoted Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the Pakistani parliament’s defense committee, as saying.
Pakistan, for its part, hopes the investment will boost its struggling economy and help end chronic power shortages.
Leaders are also expected to discuss co-operation on security.
President Xi Jinping will spend two days in Pakistan holding talks with President Mamnoon Hussain, PM Nawaz Sharif and other ministers. He will address parliament on April 21.
Deals worth some $28 billion are ready to be signed during the visit, with the rest to follow.
Under the CPEC plan, China’s government and banks will lend to Chinese companies, so they can invest in projects as commercial ventures.
A network of roads, railways and energy developments will eventually stretch some 1,865 miles.
Some $15.5 billion worth of coal, wind, solar and hydro energy projects will come online by 2017 and add 10,400 megawatts of energy to Pakistan’s national grid, according to officials.
A $44 million optical fiber cable between the two countries is also due to be built.
Pakistan, meanwhile, hopes the investment will enable it to transform itself into a regional economic hub.
Ahsan Iqbal, the Pakistani minister overseeing the plan, told the AFP news agency that these were “very substantial and tangible projects which will have a significant transformative effect on Pakistan’s economy”.
Xi Jinping is also expected to discuss security issues with PM Nawaz Sharif, including China’s concerns that Muslim separatists from Xinjiang are linking up with Pakistani militants.
Pakistan’s parliament is holding a joint session as PM Nawaz Sharif seeks to rally support against protesters calling for his resignation.
Clashes between security forces and demonstrators continued for a third day on September 1 in the capital Islamabad.
The army has denied suggestions it is backing anti-government groups, insisting it is “apolitical”.
Nawaz Sharif – who was elected last year – has said he is determined to protect democracy and will not resign.
The emergency session of both houses of parliament could last several days and the prime minister will make an address during the session.
Opposition cleric Tahir ul-Qadri has insisted that Nawaz Sharif should step down to face murder charges and a terrorism probe.
Tahir ul-Qadri is supported by another opposition politician, Imran Khan – who argues that the June 2013 elections were rigged.
Police were deployed in strength late on Monday as the government resumed negotiations with Tahir ul-Qadri and Imran Khan.
Protests in Pakistan had been peaceful until August 30, when violence broke out
PM Nawaz Sharif – who was elected with an overwhelming mandate – has pledged “not to let the people’s mandate be hijacked by intimidation”.
His Pakistan Muslim League is the largest political party in the country.
The country’s national PTV television channel on September 1 was briefly taken off air after protesters stormed its headquarters in Islamabad.
The army’s public relations wing on the same day issued a statement in which it described itself as an “apolitical institution” that “categorically rejected” supporting either Imran Khan or Tarih ul-Qadri.
The army’s intervention came after a senior figure in Imran Khan’s PTI party, Javed Hashmi, claimed Khan had told senior party members that the army and intelligence services were ready to help him and Tahir ul-Qadri topple the government.
A popularly elected government, which now also has the support of almost all opposition forces, is being cornered by a minority political group and the followers of a cleric who runs a charity network.
Thousands of demonstrators – some wielding batons and throwing stones – on September 1 moved on the main building housing Pakistan’s federal bureaucracy and Prime Minister’s House. A number of riot policemen were reported to have been injured.
Protests had been peaceful until August 30, when violence broke out. Three people died and hundreds were injured.
Pakistan state TV (PTV) has been taken off air after its headquarters were stormed by anti-government protesters in Islamabad.
PTV showed live images of crowds breaking open the gates and pouring into its offices before its transmission ended.
Latest reports say troops have removed the protesters from the building.
Protesters want PM Nawaz Sharif to resign. He denies charges of corruption and electoral fraud.
Earlier, fresh clashes erupted between protesters and police.
A number of police officers have been injured during clashes near PM Nawaz Sharif’s residence (photo The Express Tribune)
A number of police officers were reported to have been injured in the violence as thousands of demonstrators – some wielding batons and throwing stones – moved on the main building housing Pakistan’s federal bureaucracy and Prime Minister’s House.
Riot police were forced to retreat from the main road in front of parliament, Constitution Avenue.
Protesters attacked vehicles and set fire to shipping containers placed on the road as roadblocks.
On Sunday night protesters used trucks to smash through the outer fence of the parliament building.
Demonstrators loyal to opposition politician Imran Khan and cleric Tahirul Qadri have been taking part in a sit-in in the centre of the capital for two weeks.
Pakistan’s government has a formal meeting with a Taliban-nominated team in Islamabad, officials say.
The talks are aimed at charting a “roadmap” for negotiations that will try to end a decade-long insurgency.
The government set out five conditions, including ending hostilities, saying a “journey for peace” had started.
The Taliban team agreed to travel to the north-west to discuss the conditions with the leadership.
Militants from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have been waging an insurgency inside Pakistan since 2007.
The talks initiative was announced last week by PM Nawaz Sharif, following a spate of attacks.
More than 100 people, including soldiers, died in Taliban attacks across the country in January. Thousands have been killed since the TTP came to the fore in 2007.
The first session lasted about three hours at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa House in Islamabad.
Pakistan’s government has a formal meeting with a Taliban-nominated team in Islamabad
The head of the Taliban team, Maulana Sami ul-Haq, read out a joint statement afterwards.
The statement listed five basic conditions that had been set out by the government side:
All talks be held within the framework of the constitution
The scope of the talks should remain confined to areas affected by violence, not the whole country
All hostilities should cease during talks
The Taliban should clarify the role of a separate nine-member committee that they have established
The talks should not be protracted
The Taliban team agreed to travel to Miranshah in the north-west to take the conditions to the leadership and pledged to report back to the government committee as soon as possible.
Both committees agreed that neither side should initiate an act that might damage the talks process.
The statement also said that the Taliban side had sought clarification on the power and mandate of the government committee involved in the talks, and whether it could accept and act on demands made by the Taliban.
Both sides condemned recent violence.
The chief negotiator for the government side, Irfan Siddiqui, said: “Today, we started the journey for peace, and both sides have agreed to complete it as soon as possible.”
The Taliban want to see Sharia (Islamic law) imposed throughout Pakistan and US troops to withdraw from the region.
Since taking office last May, Nawaz Sharif has come under mounting pressure to bring the violence under control, with many accusing his government of lacking a strategy to deal with the militants, correspondents say.
Pakistan’s former leader Pervez Musharraf has failed to appear in Islamabad court for his trial on treason charges.
Pervez Musharraf’s lawyers told the court there was not enough security for him. His trial was postponed last week after reports a bomb was found on his route to court.
The treason charges relate to his decision in 2007 to suspend the constitution and impose emergency rule.
Pervez Musharraf, 70, denies the charges and says all the accusations against him are politically motivated.
He is the first Pakistani former military ruler to face trial for treason. If found guilty, Pervez Musharraf could be sentenced to death or life in prison.
He also faces separate charges of murder and restricting the judiciary.
His lawyers told Wednesday’s hearing that more explosives had been found close to Pervez Musharraf’s residence on the outskirts of Islamabad.
“He is unable to appear before the court because of security hazards,” his lawyer Ahmed Raza Kasuri said.
Pervez Musharraf has failed to appear in Islamabad court for his trial on treason charges
The court also heard one of Pervez Musharraf’s lawyers, Anwar Mansoor, was recently attacked by a group of men in Lahore. Although he managed to escape unharmed, police refused to take his complaint seriously.
The defense team is arguing that Pervez Musharraf cannot get a fair trial in Pakistan. Defense lawyer Anwar Mansoor said the current prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, “has a bias against” his client.
Pervez Musharraf seized power from Nawaz Sharif in a coup in 1999. He remained president until 2008, when a democratically elected government forced him to resign.
He left the country soon afterwards to live in self-imposed exile in Dubai and London.
On his return to Pakistan in March 2013, Pervez Musharraf hoped he could lead his party into elections, but was disqualified from standing and found himself fighting an array of charges relating to his time in power.
Correspondents says many Pakistanis believe Nawaz Sharif’s government is using the trial to divert attention from the problems the country is facing, including a struggling economy and continuing sectarian and other attacks.
On December 24, Pervez Musharraf’s lawyers said he could not appear in the courtroom because of a heightened security threat after explosives and weapons were found by the road along his route.
The court granted Pervez Musharraf a one-off exemption from appearing.
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