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Imran Khan Claims Victory In Pakistan Election

Former cricket star set to be Pakistan’s new PM

What you need to know
  • Former cricket superstar Imran Khan has declared victory in Pakistan’s Parliamentary election
  • His party does not at this stage have a majority of seats
  • Rival party has claimed vote-rigging
  • Election day scarred by terrorist bombing claiming 31 lives

Former cricket star Imran Khan has declared victory in Pakistan's parliamentary election and vowed to run the country "as it has never before been run" by fighting corruption, seeking regional cooperation and forging a new relationship with the US that was not "one-sided."

TV stations reported Khan and his Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI, maintained a commanding lead from Wednesday's balloting. But his leading rival, Shahbaz Sharif, rejected the outcome, citing allegations of vote-rigging.

Pakistan's election commission struggled with technical problems and had to revert to a manual count, delaying the announcement of final results until Friday. That left unclear whether the PTI will have a simple majority in the National Assembly or have to form a coalition government - which appears more likely.

According to al Jazeera early on Friday (Pakistan time), the PTI have claimed 109 of the 137 seats they need for victory. Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League, have 57, with other parties accounting for 76 and 30 remaining undeclared.

But that didn't stop the 65-year-old Khan from proclaiming his triumph in an address to the nation, in which he pledged to create an Islamic welfare state to provide education and employment for the poor to fulfil a campaign promise to create 10 million jobs.

"Today in front of you, in front of the people of Pakistan, I pledge I will run Pakistan in such a way as it has never before been run," Khan said

Khan vowed to wipe out corruption, strengthen institutions he called dysfunctional and regain national pride by developing international relationships based on respect and equality.

While Khan appeared casual and conciliatory in his speech, his words were laced with passion. He said the United States treats Pakistan like a mercenary, giving it billions of dollars to fight the war on terrorism in a region beset with militant extremists.

"Unfortunately, so far our relations were one-sided. America thinks that it gives Pakistan money to fight for them. Because of this Pakistan suffered a lot," Khan said.

Seeking good relations with his neighbours, Khan addressed Pakistan's rival, India. The two nuclear powers have had a long-running conflict over the disputed region of Kashmir.

"Take one step toward us and we will take two steps toward you," he said in a peace offering while still decrying widespread human rights abuses in Kashmir.

Khan also advocated an open border policy with Afghanistan, even suggesting the two countries embrace a "European Union" type relationship. The plan seems unlikely, with Pakistan's military already building hundreds of border outposts and an accompanying fence along its western frontier with Afghanistan despite often-violent opposition from Kabul.

Khan focused on what he wanted to do for the poor in Pakistan and his vision of a country that bowed to no one, where everyone was equal under the law and taxes were paid by the rich to fund services for the less fortunate.

Khan said he wasn't intending to live in the Prime Minister’s mansion.

“I would be embarrassed” to stay in such a house, in a country with so many poor people, Khan said.

His campaign message of a new Pakistan seemed to resonate with young voters in a country where 64 per cent of its 200 million people are under 30.

Former Pakistan cricketers came out on Twitter to endorse Khan’s victory.

Khan played 88 tests and 175 one day internationals for Pakistan between 1971 and 1992, and was one of the greatest all-rounders the game has seen. He spent the last decade of his career captaining the team, leading the team to a World Cup victory in his final year.

At the centre of a moment of immense pride for his country, he later told reporters that he felt "empty". He initially turned towards philanthropic work, founding a charity trust which established Pakistan's first cancer hospital.

He founded the PTI in 1996, with the stated aim of establishing good governance in Pakistan. And after a long climb, he may finally have his chance.

with AP