Omar Ayub Khan (4rth left), nominee for prime minister from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, Gohar Ali Khan (second left) PTI's chairman and barrister speak with Sahibzada Muhammad Hamid Raza (third right), leader of the political group Sunni Ittehad Council during press conference following their coalition in Islamabad on February 19, 2024. Image Credit: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani politicians loyal to jailed former prime minister Imran Khan will forge an alliance with a little-known political group, his party said on Monday, after polls returned no clear winner.

Candidates backed by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party won the most seats in this month’s election but were effectively sidelined because they were forced to stand as independents.

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The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) failed to secure a ruling majority but has forged a partnership with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and a handful of smaller parties to form the next government.

However, PTI still hopes to seek a majority by having its candidates join the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), a registered political party whose chairman was the only one from the alliance of Islamic political and religious parties group to win a seat.

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“We have reached a consensus that our provincial and national assembly candidates will join Sunni Ittehad Council,” PTI chairman Gohar Ali Khan told a news conference.

Successful PTI-backed candidates will send their applications to join the SIC this week to the Election Commission of Pakistan, which must approve the alliance.

If the commission signs off on them, the alliance could then be entitled to seats reserved for women and religious minorities that are allocated according to election results.

“After this alliance, PTI will be in a position to form a government in the provinces as well as in the centre,” Omar Ayub Khan, PTI’s candidate for prime minister, told the news conference, referring to the National Assembly.

A senior bureaucrat announced at a news conference on Saturday that he had helped rig the February 8 election and would hand himself in to police.

“We converted the losers into winners, reversing margins of 70,000 votes in 13 national assembly seats,” said Liaqat Ali Chattha, commissioner of the garrison city of Rawalpindi where the powerful military has its headquarters.

Imran Khan’s PTI held nationwide protests against the alleged rigging on Saturday.

A small number of supporters took to the streets in major urban centres, with the largest gathering of around 4,000 people in its stronghold northern city of Peshawar.

Police detained senior party member Salman Akram Raja and around a dozen supporters in the central city of Lahore, where they surrounded the party headquarters, but said they had all been released by late afternoon.