Imran Khan's supporters celebrate PTI party's landslide victory in Punjab by-polls
PTI Party members celebrating their victory in Punjab polls

Lahore: Ousted prime minister Imran Khan‘s supporters took to the streets to celebrate Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s landslide victory in the crucial Punjab Assembly by-polls that snatched the key province from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (Nawaz).

As the voting on all 20 constituencies of Punjab by-polls completed late on Sunday night, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) won 15, PML-N four and one independent was declared successful.

Thumping victory in the by-polls helped Khan’s party to achieve a magical number of 186 to form the next government in Punjab. The PTI and its ally party PML-Q’s total tally stands at 188 in the Provincial Assembly. The PML-N and its allies have a total of 179 lawmakers.

PTI-PMLQ joint candidate Chaudhary Parvez Elahi is likely to be the new chief minister of Punjab dethroning incumbent Hamza Shehbaz, who is the son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

The PTI has demanded the resignation of Hamza as he has lost the mandate in the Punjab Assembly.

The election on these 20 seats was held after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had de-seated 25 lawmakers of PTI for voting for Hamza Shehbaz for Punjab chief minister’s election last April. Five of them were elected on reserved seats.

In the by-polls, the PTI not only has come in a position from the Punjab government but it also snatched the stronghold of PML-N. Lahore, the citadel of the Sharifs also fell to Khan with his PTI grabbing three of the four seats in Punjab’s capital city.

After the victory, a large number of PTI supporters, including women and children, took to the streets in different parts of the country and burst crackers and distributed sweets. They chanted slogans against what they called “imported government” of Shehbaz Sharif. They also vent their anger against the US “for installing the Shehbaz government.”

Thanking the party workers and voters of Punjab, Imran Khan, who is also PTI’s chairman, took to social media and termed the victory not just PML-N candidates but the entire state machinery.

The only way forward from here is to hold fair and free elections under a credible ECP. Any other path will only lead to greater political uncertainty and further economic chaos, Khan tweeted on Sunday.

Khan is holding a party core committee meeting in Islamabad on Monday to chalk out the party’s strategy after winning the by-polls.

On the other hand, PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif, who has been in London since November 2019 in self-exile, has directed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to call a party meeting to post mortem the party’s humiliating defeat in the Punjab by-polls.

The PML-N leadership has accepted the defeat and some of its top leaders blamed “unpopular decisions” on the incumbent decisions. “Unpopular decisions have cast us by polls,” PMLN senior leader and Railways Minister Saad Rafique told a press conference.

He justified toppling Imran’s government saying had “we not sent Khan home Pakistan would have been defaulted.”

Former information minister of PTI, Fawad Chaudhry said Khan was the “only decisive factor” between PTI and the nine-party coalition government’s candidates in Punjab by-polls. The people responded to Khan’s narrative against the imported government, he said.

“On Sunday (July 17) the people of Punjab had come out of their homes in droves to ensure Pakistan got real independence from the rule of foreign masters,” he said and added the people in Punjab had vented their anger at the coalition government and the turncoats who sold their conscience for money.

Parvez Elahi’s son and former PML-Q federal minister Moonis Elahi said in a tweet: “The PML-N’s defeat was actually Pakistan’s victory. Punjab has come out of the Sharif family’s slavery by breaking all shackles.”

Prime Minister’s spokesperson Malik Ahmad Khan said: “We respect the mandate of the people. Now we ask the PTI-PMLQ to form the government in Punjab.”

Talking to PTI he said inflation was one of the main reasons for his party’s defeat.

To a question about whether Prime Minister Shehbaz would dissolve the National Assembly to call early general elections, he said: “The PML-N leadership will decide about it in consultation with its allies.”

PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz also accepted her party’s defeat. “We should accept our defeat with an open heart,” the daughter of PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif said in a tweet.

She said that in politics, victory and defeat is a part of the game. “We will see our weaknesses and remove them,” she said.

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