1 of 3 | Gohar Ali Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) political party, talks to reporters in Islamabad on Saturday after the country's Election Commission began releasing the results of the this week's general elections. Photo by Sohail Shahzad/EPA-EFE
Feb. 10 (UPI) -- The party of jailed former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan told its members Saturday the country's president would invite it to form the next government following this week's elections.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Gohar Ali Khan said in a speech independents backed by his party had secured a majority in the election with the results of more than 20 of the 265 National Assembly seats up for still undecided as of late Saturday.
The PTI's surprise claims come a day after former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared victory -- critics said prematurely -- in the federal elections.
Sharif said at the time his Pakistan Muslim League party had the largest number of seats among the country's major political parties.
Polls on Friday had Sharif's PLM-N party securing 144 National Assembly with Ali Khan and the PIT having clinched 130.
It appears unlikely any single party will be able to lay claim to the necessary 169 seats to secure a majority, which would result in a hung Parliament.
Sharif, who has served three prior non-consecutive terms as prime minister, continued to project victory Saturday, calling for the country to form a unity government.
"We can't hold elections again and again," the 74-year-old said in what was framed as a victory speech.
"Our party has emerged as [the] single largest winning party in the country after Thursday's polls," he said. "To steer Pakistan out of crises, we want other parties to join hands to form a coalition government. Our agenda is only a happy Pakistan and you know what we have done before."
Sharif and his party also appeared to have the support of the country's powerful military. Pakistan's army chief, Gen. Asim Munir, also called for a "unified" government, urging party leaders to "rise above self-interests."
Despite the lack of clarity, Ali Khan claimed that Pakistani President Arif Alvi would ask the PTI and independents backed by his party to form the government in the National Assembly.
The PTI was founded by Imran Khan, who is imprisoned on corruption charges and also under a 10-year ban from running for political office at any level.
Despite being held in custody in a jail in the town of Adiala since last summer, he managed to get a message generated by artificial intelligence to his followers.
"You kept my trust, and your massive turnout has stunned everyone," an AI version of Khan's voice told crowds.
Khan's speech was also made available on his X account behind a picture of the jailed party leader behind bars.
Third in the polls was the Pakistan People's Party led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of the assassinated leader Benazir Bhutto and grandson of party founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The European Union, Britain and the United States all issued statements calling for transparency in the proceedings amid accusations of election irregularities across the cash-strapped country.