Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) secretary Babar Yaqoob said early on Thursday counting had been delayed by technical failures in an electronic reporting system and the tallying was now being conducted manually. The results had been due by 2am.
“There’s no conspiracy, nor any pressure in delay of the results. The delay is being caused because the result transmission system has collapsed,” Yaqoob said.
He said he could not set an exact deadline when the full results would be released but it would be as soon as possible.
Chief Election Commisioner Sardar Mohammad Raza later defended the process after Sharif’s party and at least four others contesting the elections alleged the counting was manipulated.
“These elections were 100 per cent transparent and fair,” Raza said. “There is no stain. Why don’t you think the five political parties might be wrong?”
With 30 per cent of the total vote counted, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), or Pakistan Movement for Justice, was listed by the ECP as leading in 113 of 272 contested National Assembly constituencies.
Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was ahead in 66 constituencies, and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), led by the son of assassinated two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto, led in 39 constituencies.
Khan’s camp was increasingly confident, although it still appeared likely to fall short of the 137 seats needed for a majority in the National Assembly, raising the prospect it would need to find coalition partners among smaller parties and independents.
Khan’s party spokesman, Fawad Chaudhry, tweeted “Congratulations to the nation on a new Pakistan! Prime Minister Imran Khan”, although his party has officially held off on declaring victory.
The PML-N, which came to power in a landslide 2013 vote, has sought to cast this election as a referendum on democracy, saying it was campaigning to protect the “sanctity of the vote”, a reference to a history of political interference by the military.
Early on Thursday, Sharif’s brother Shehbaz, who now leads the PML-N, rejected the results after complaints that soldiers stationed in polling stations had thrown out poll monitors from political parties during the counting.