Pakistan’s cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan on Thursday said he was disappointed with Indian media, who had portrayed him as a “Bollywood villain”. In a televised address after claiming victory in the elections, Khan said his government will focus on foreign relations and is ready to improve ties with New Delhi.
His party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf led in 119 of the 272 seats of the National Assembly after 49% of the polling stations had been counted. The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) was ahead in 61 seats and the Pakistan Peoples Party in 40. The majority mark for a single party to form the government is 137.
“I was saddened by the way Indian media recently projected me,” Khan said in his address. “I am one of those Pakistanis that wants good relations with India, if we want to have a poverty free subcontinent then we must have good relations and trade ties.”
Khan said Kashmir remains the biggest contention between India and Pakistan. “There have been human rights violations over 30 years, and the people of Kashmir have suffered massively. The leadership of Pakistan and India now need to come to the table to resolve this and end the blame games. We are stuck at square one,” he added.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf chief said: “If India comes and takes one step towards us, we will take two steps toward them. Right now it is one-sided where India is constantly just blaming us.”
He said his government’s focus will be on China. “We want to work towards the success of China Pakistan Economic Corridor,” Khan said. “We also want to send teams to learn poverty alleviation from China. How to lift our most poor who can’t even eat two meals a day.”
Khan said China would also be Pakistan’s model in its efforts to curb corruption.
Khan said he has secured the chance to fulfill his dream to serve the nation. “I thank god, after 22 years of struggle, my prayers have been answered,” Khan said.
He said he had joined politics since he believed that the potential of Pakistan was not being realised. “The Pakistan that I saw growing up deteriorated in front of my very eyes...We became the opposite of the welfare state we were to become. The state where poverty rose, and the big dream for equality in Pakistan deteriorated,” he said.
Khan said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf will work towards empowering the poor, labourers and farmers. He said his party’s focus will be on justice, equality and opportunities. Khan said female pregnancy mortality rate was one of the highest in Pakistan and the highest number of children die in the country of drinking dirty water.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf chief said no other leader in Pakistan had seen personal attacks like he had in the last three years. “But I have forgotten it all and it is behind me. This is bigger than Imran Khan. This is about the country,” he said.
PML(N) leader Shehbaz Sharif claimed the results showed a “sheer rigging”. “We totally reject this result,” he said. “It is a big shock to Pakistan’s democratic process.”
Pakistan Peoples Party chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said he would reject the results as well. “My candidates complaining polling agents have been thrown out of polling stations across the country,” he tweeted. “Inexcusable [and] outrageous.”
Khan said all allegations of rigging made by his rivals will be addressed through proper channels. “Anyone who has issues of rigging, we will help you facilitate and we will open up any constituency that you want for investigation,” Khan said. “When we asked for probes, we were not facilitated but now we will do it differently.”
Khan’s electoral campaign based itself on eradicating corruption and the country’s dynastic politics. But he has been accused of being favoured by the military and the intelligence service, claims he has denied. In the previous general elections in 2013, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf narrowly missed out on becoming the second largest national party.