Ex-Pakistani leader forms government as votes tallied

Finance minister named; protests allege fraud

Supporters of candidate Imran Khan shouted slogans accusing officials of election fraud in Faisalabad, Pakistan.
Ilyas Sheikh/EPA
Supporters of candidate Imran Khan shouted slogans accusing officials of election fraud in Faisalabad, Pakistan.

LONDON — Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister, moved confidently to form a government in Pakistan on Monday, announcing the next finance minister even as votes from Saturday’s election were still being tallied and protests continued over alleged vote rigging in some cities.

Sharif’s confidence stemmed from his resounding electoral victory, which confounded analysts’ predictions of a stronger showing for his rival, the former cricket star Imran Khan.

Although the count will not be finalized for several days, projections now give Sharif a near-majority of seats in Parliament.


Sharif’s spokesman said he would appoint Ishaq Dar, who served as finance minister twice in the 1990s, to the finance portfolio — a critical job in a country suffering from sharp economic decline that is likely to necessitate a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

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The spokesman, Siddiqul Farooq, told Agence France-Presse that Dar had “all the facts and figures at his fingertips” and would present a new budget in June. The news triggered a rally on Pakistan’s main stock exchange in Karachi that pushed its index to a record high.

During the election campaign, Sharif, a former steel baron, campaigned heavily on his ability to turn around the ailing economy and end electricity shortages that can last for 18 hours in some parts of the country.

A fiscal conservative, he is seen as favoring free market economics and deregulation.

Khan, the charismatic athlete whose campaign generated excitement, concentrated his efforts on forming a government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, in northwestern Pakistan.


Javed Hashmi, a senior official with Khan’s party, said it was in negotiations with the religious Jamaat-e-Islami Party to form a coalition administration in the province, which has borne the brunt of Taliban violence and adjoins the tribal belt, where the CIA has concentrated its campaign of drone strikes.

Projections give Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf Party 35 out of the 99 seats in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Legislature, making it the single largest party.

Jamaat-e-Islami is thought to have about seven seats.

Speaking from his hospital bed in Lahore, where he had a serious fall in the final days of the election campaign and badly injured his back, Khan broadly welcomed the election.

“We are now moving toward democracy,” he said.


But Khan’s party has also made accusations of vote rigging, particularly in the port city of Karachi. Several parties, including Khan’s, have accused the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which has dominated the city’s politics for decades, sometimes through thuggish behavior, of employing intimidation and delaying tactics at polling stations Saturday.

On Monday, hundreds of supporters from the Muttahida Deeni Mahaz, an alliance of religious parties, joined a protest rally against rigging in Karachi.

Khan’s party said it would hold a major demonstration on Shahrah-e-Faisal, the city’s main traffic artery.

Khan’s supporters also protested in Lahore. Hamid Khan, who lost to Sharif’s candidate in a wealthy neighborhood, threatened to take his appeal to the Supreme Court.

“We will not allow rigging,” he told supporters at a demonstration.

The furor over vote rigging highlighted a phenomenon in Pakistani politics: the emergence of social media as a tool of electoral mobilization and protest.

While the last poll, in 2008, was influenced by a raft of new private television channels, this weekend’s election gave new influence to Twitter and Facebook.