Imran Khan was jailed and silenced. His colleagues were barred from contesting Pakistan’s election under their party’s name. They weren’t even allowed to use its famous cricket bat symbol.
Yet the candidates who are part of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party — running as independents — put forth a strong showing in the contentious poll. Independents, mostly backed by the former premier, won 99 of 265 contested lower-house seats, with results for 15 yet to be released. Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz took 71 seats, while Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party had 53.
The independents’ strong performance points to Khan’s enduring popularity among the nation’s 129 million registered voters, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet amid the fastest inflation in Asia. It also highlights public disillusionment with the status quo of Pakistani politics, represented by the parties of the Sharif and Bhutto clans.