With both former Pakistan prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan claiming victory in the countrywide elections, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union on Friday separately expressed concerns about the electoral process and urged an investigated into the reported irregularities.
Elections were held for 265 seats in the national assembly and a party needs 133 seats for a simple majority. Referring to the allegations of interference, irregularities and fraud, the US and the EU both stated that these should be fully investigated. Khan is in jail and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has been barred from the polls. Independents, majority of whom are backed by Khan, had won 98 of the 245 counted seats, while Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party had won 69 seats.
The EU statement noted a "lack of a level playing field", attributing that to "the inability of some political actors to contest the elections" and to restrictions to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and internet access.
The US State Department said there were "undue restrictions" on freedoms of expressions and assembly while noting violence and attacks on mediapersons. Democratic US Representatives Ro Khanna and Ilhan Omar also expressed concerns, with Khanna claiming "the military is interfering and rigging the result".
British foreign minister David Cameron's statement noted "serious concerns raised about the fairness and lack of inclusivity of the elections".
The EU, the US and Britain said they would work with the next government and did not congratulate any candidate or party.
Khan was disqualified as a candidate and sentenced to prison over multiple legal cases. He has denied any wrongdoing. Khan's PTI won the general election in 2018, but he was ousted in 2022 after falling out with the military. He has been in jail since August, and was convicted in the leadup to the polls for 10, 14 and seven years in cases related to state secrets, graft and an unlawful marriage.
Sharif, 74, a three-time former PM, returned from four years of self-imposed exile in the UK late last year.
Sharif declares victory as largest party
In the elections marred by delayed results and militant attacks in which 28 people were killed, Sharif's party claimed win, with the most seats won by a single party, but Khan's supporters, who ran as independents after his party was barred from the polls, won the most seats overall.
Sharif said his party would talk to other groups to form a coalition government as it had failed to win a clear majority on its own.
The Pakistan People's Party of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated premier Benazir Bhutto, got 51 seats.
"Pakistan Muslim League is the single-largest party in the country today after the elections and it is our duty to bring this country out of the whirlpool," Sharif told his supporters outside his home in Lahore. "Whoever has got the mandate, whether independents or parties, we respect the mandate they have got," he said. "We invite them to sit with us and help this wounded nation get back on its feet."
Khan's PTI party released an audio-visual message created using artificial intelligence and shared on his X social media account. In the message, which is usually delivered by word through his lawyers, Khan, 71, rejected Sharif's claim to victory, congratulated his supporters on "winning" the election and urged them to celebrate and protect their vote.
(With agency inputs)