In a carefully crafted message on Thursday, PTI chief Imran Khan made a nuanced outreach to India while making clear that New Delhi’s response would hold the key.

Imran Khan is poised to become the next Prime Minister of Pakistan and faces the task of cobbling up alliances to form a coalition government after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party fell short of majority mark. On Thursday, the former cricketer-turned politician declared his victory and dismissed the allegations of fraud calling it the most transparent election in Pakistan’s history.

In a carefully crafted message, PTI chief made a nuanced outreach to India while making clear that New Delhi’s response would hold the key. Stressing that the blame game needs to stop between the two countries over Kashmir and Balochistan, 65-year-old Khan addressed his nation: “If India takes one step towards us, we will take two steps toward them…but at least (we) need a start. Right now, it is one-sided where India is constantly just blaming us.”

Khan shared his vision for his nation and vowed to make Pakistan’s institutions stronger under which everyone will be held accountable. He also promised to make a “Naya Pakistan” which would be an Islamic welfare state.

Let’s have a look at how leading Pakistan dailies have covered Imran Khan’s victory

Dawn: In an editorial titled Time to move on, Dawn said: “Prime Minister Imran Khan — a long, quintessentially Pakistani struggle to achieve the summit of national politics has finally succeeded.” It said that the PTI chief enjoys genuine national political appeal “irrespective of the significant controversies in the run-up to polling day and in the hours after polling closed.”

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Praising Khan’s acceptance speech, Dawn said “Mr Khan struck a sensible note in his speech and he ought to be given the political space to try and turn his ideas into reality.” However, it castigated the Election Commission of Pakistan for “a stunningly disastrous performance.” “The shocking mismanagement of the process of counting votes and announcing results at the polling station has made it necessary that the entire ECP senior leadership resign after the election formalities are completed and a high-level inquiry be conducted at the earliest. At this stage, it cannot be known if foul play, gross incompetence or a combination of both resulted in the unacceptable delay in the announcing of preliminary results on election night,” it said.

Dawn wrote that all parties should strengthen parliamentary democracy through robust debate, with the opposition keeping a vigilant check on the government’s performance.

The Express Tribune: In an editorial titled Prime Minister Imran Khan, The Express Tribune said while all analyses pointed to a hung verdict, the “PTI has gone well past the magical 100-seat mark, good enough to attract independent candidates into its fold to secure simple majority and form the government comfortably — well, without the support of difficult-to-handle allies.” It said the election showed that Pakistan has overwhelmingly rejected the narrative set by PML-N and the PPP and voted for “pursuing a Naya Pakistan through human resource development.”

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The Tribune said the real test of Khan as a capable leader has begun and that the former Pakistan captain will have to “perform out of his skin” to come good on his “promises of a Madina-like welfare state, across-the-board accountability, 10 million jobs, widened tax base, depoliticised police, sovereign foreign policy, etc.” It also made a scathing observation on the Pakistan Election Commission and said: “We need to learn from neighbouring India where the chief election commissioner has, over the years, become so powerful that serious allegations of rigging in the country have become a thing of past.”

The Nation: In an editorial titled No Victory For Radicals, The Nation said the biggest takeaways for the voter in the elections was the “lack of seats that the radical parties managed to win.”

“Nothing has plagued Pakistan more than these extremist players who cash in on the religious sentiments of the masses and manage to incite violence despite claims of being associated with religion,” it said, adding that such individuals and parties deserve nothing but the severe loss. The Nation also said that “the results of the both – national assembly and provincial assemblies show a clear disconnect of the populace with the narrative of the radicals. It also reinforces that fact that mainstream politics in Pakistan will always be shy of taking a radical stance.”

Pakistan Observer: In an editorial titled Respect people’s mandate, Pakistan Observer said: “the elections, as widely predicted, led to emergence of PTI as the largest party securing sufficient seats to form governments at the Centre, KP and may be also in Punjab with the cooperation of independents and like-minded parties.” It also censured the Election Commission for “miserably failed to announce results in time” and said it was unfortunate to observe that allegations of rigging started just in midst of announcement of progressive results by the Election Commission and national media.

“As for allegations of rigging, we would urge all parties to accept results and allow the party getting mandate of the people to form the government and deliver. We have had a long period of political and economic instability and its continuation would not be in the interest of the country,” the daily said. It said the PTI leadership needs to behave maturely as it is now poised to form the government and will have to shun the posture it adopted as an opposition party.

Pakistan Today: In an editorial titled No bed of roses for the PTI government, Pakistan Today stated that Imran Khan’s government will face “momentous issues that include critical economic challenges, threats to internal security, a rising wave of extremism, tit-for-tat relations with the US, and outstanding issues that remain unresolved with Pakistan’s neighbouring countries.” It also pointed out that the PTI government will have to take unpopular decisions that the “PML-N shied away from like documenting the large informal sector and bringing into the tax net a section the super-rich which continues to dodge taxes” to improve the economy.

“Imran Khan has spelt out the contours of a realistic foreign policy envisaging friendly relations with countries in the region including India. While many will welcome it, he will be judged not by his words but by his performance,” PT said, adding that it will have to improve working relations with the Opposition to cope with the daunting challenges that lie ahead.

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