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More Protests In Pakistan Over Election Results As Talks On Future Government Continue

People protest against election results in the Pakistani city of Quetta in northern Balochistan on February 11.
People protest against election results in the Pakistani city of Quetta in northern Balochistan on February 11.

Thousands of people have protested, including blocking roads, in the southwestern Balochistan region of Pakistan against the results of recent inconclusive parliamentary elections as Pakistan’s two largest political parties continued talks over who could lead a future government.

Several parties have rejected the results of the February 8 nationwide poll, with many claiming vote rigging.

Independent candidates -- most linked to jailed former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI) party -- took the most seats in the polls. That spoiled the chances of the army-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to win a ruling majority.

However, independents cannot form a government and the country faces weeks of uncertainty as rival parties negotiate coalitions. PTI leaders have claimed they would have won even more seats if not for vote-rigging.

It will be up to the new parliament to pick Pakistan’s next prime minister.

On February 12, thousands of supporters of Khan took to the streets in Balochistan, where Jan Achakzai, a government spokesman, urged protesters to “show grace” by accepting defeat and moving away from the highways.

Khan could not run in the election because of criminal convictions against him that he says are politically motivated.

But candidates aligned with him secured 101 out of 266 seats in the National Assembly, or lower house of parliament.

The Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party led by three-time prime minister and ex-felon Nawaz Sharif secured 75. Sharif is currently in talks with allies to form a coalition government.

The Pakistan People’s Party, or PPP, led by Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, came in third with 54 seats. One result has been withheld and another vote was postponed because of a candidate’s death. The campaign to kick Khan out of office in 2022 was led by the PML-N and the PPP.

In a statement late on February 11, the PML-N and the PPP said they were committed to "putting the nation's interest and well-being above everything" and "to steering Pakistan away from political instability and towards a path of prosperity and resilience."

Officials from both the PML-N and the PPP, however, said talks were stuck over whose leader would take the top job.

"Both sides are interested to form a coalition, but there is no breakthrough so far. Both parties want the office of prime minister," a top PML-N leader close to Sharif told Reuters.

With reporting by Reuters and AP

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