FILE: Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan gestures as he travels on a vehicle to lead a protest march in Islamabad, Pakistan May 26, 2022. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Deposed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party swept by-elections in Pakistan’s most populous Punjab province Sunday, according to sources, possibly paving the way for a snap national polls.

Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI), won 15 of the 20 seats up for grabs in Punjab – a province that has often served as a bellwether for national politics.

The rival Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif secured four seats and one went to an independent candidate, his party leaders confirmed at a late-night news conference, as VOA reported.

The outcome has given the PTI the requisite majority in the provincial legislature to reclaim power from the PML-N government of incumbent Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, son of Sharif, who took an oath of office only eight weeks ago, according to the report.

Khan thanked his party workers, voters and allies for helping the PTI win Sunday’s elections, renewing his demand for snap elections in Pakistan.

“I want to first thank our PTI workers & voters of Punjab for defeating not just PMLN candidates but the entire state machinery, esp harassment by police, & a totally biased ECP,” he wrote in a thread. “Thank you to all our Allies, PMLQ, MWM & Sunni Ittehad Council.”

“The only way forward from here is to hold fair & free elections under a credible ECP,” he wrote. “Any other path will only lead to greater political uncertainty & further economic chaos.”

Call for Fair and Free Elections

Earlier, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) activists and supporter took to the streets in nearly all major cities of the country against runaway inflation, as the PTI Chairman Imran Khan warned any bid to rig the election would push the country towards anarchy.

The major protests were held at Islamabad’s F-9 Park, Karachi’s Shahrah-e-Quaideen, Lahore’s Liberty Chowk, Faisalabad’s Ghanta Ghar Chowk, Rawalpindi’s Commercial Market, Multan’s Shah Abdullah Chowk and Peshawar’s Hasht Nagari Gate, including some other cities of the country.

Khan addressed the public gatherings through video-link from Bani Gala, telling his supporters that he would soon give a call for peaceful agitation, which would end only with the announcement of an election date, as The News reported.

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The PTI chairman warned that if the present rulers further stayed in power, they would dump all the state institutions as they had already buried NAB and FIA, according to reports, emphasizing the situation would deteriorate in the country if general elections were not free and fair.

“The direction in which the country is moving with exports plunging by 10 per cent and remittances falling, I fear that we are heading on the path of Sri Lanka, which did not have money to buy oil,” said Khan.

In April, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted from power after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, where the opposition parties brought a motion against him for bad governance and economic mismanagement.

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