Her brother, nephew and staff are in jail. But Aleema’s fight for democracy continues

Key Points
  • Aleema Khan, sister to former prime minister Imran Khan, claims Pakistan’s Thursday election was rigged.
  • The country faces prolonged instability as no candidate has the majority required to form government.
  • Independent candidates backed by Imran’s party have secured a high number of votes, despite him being convicted and disqualified.
Imran Khan’s sister Aleema claims the Pakistani people’s vote is being stolen.
Over 240 million people voted in Pakistan’s closely contested election on Thursday, but days later the country faces instability as results failed to produce a clear winner.

Both Khan and his main rival, three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, declared victory, increasing uncertainty over who will form the next government.

The results mean the parties must enter coalition talks, only prolonging the instability.
Aleema said the disputed outcome is proof of change in the nation, inspired by her convicted brother who she believes will prevail.

“I think Imran Khan predicted months ago, that when people make a decision that they want change, there is nothing that can stop them,” she told SBS News.

What is happening in Pakistan after the election?

Former prime minister and cricket hero Khan was disqualified from running because of criminal convictions, and is currently in jail.
Candidates backed by Khan’s party, who ran as independents, won 100 out of the 266 seats up for grabs in the National Assembly.

Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League party captured 71 seats.

Men carry a Pakistani flag, with a politicians face on it.

Convicted former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) political party has alleged riggings in the general election. Source: EPA / Arshad Arbab

Khan’s sister insists her brother’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have secured a lead.

Imran Khan’s sister says Pakistani voters deprived

She also believes there were attempts to “massively rig” the election, pointing to the ban of PTI’s cricket bat symbol before the election.
“You have to keep in mind that 15 million people in Pakistan cannot read. They depend on a symbol. He had a bat as a symbol,” she said.
“They’re actually depriving the people of Pakistan of their right to vote.”

Aleema said some independents had suddenly found the results of their victory were being overturned.

“We have no idea where this will go because you’re basically stealing the people’s vote and their right to select the candidate.”
She said Pakistanis – including a lot of young voters – fought back by learning hundreds of symbols from kettles to wheelchairs for the independent candidates backed by PTI.
“We need to hold fair and free elections. That’s all he (Imran Khan) ever asked for.”
Pakistan hit back at criticism over the conduct of its parliamentary elections, which were held amid sporadic militant attacks and an unprecedented stoppage of all mobile phone services.

A strongly-worded reaction from the Foreign Ministry insisted the vote was peaceful and successful.

Imran Khan ‘on a mission’ from jail

Aleema said her brother’s time in “a tiny little cell” in jail had strengthened his determination for justice.
“He has gone through a lot over the past nine months. He’s in jail. He’s got 202 cases on him,” she said.
“He says, when you are there for a mission or a cause … it has a different meaning. (He) will stand for what (he) believes in.”

Aleema is no stranger to Pakistan’s challenging political landscape, saying her son has been forced to leave the country as well as both her nephew and some staff in jail.

But she is determined democracy can prevail, pointing to the way people “weaponised their vote”.
That, she says cannot be easily ignored.
“It doesn’t matter how many seats they steal from the independents, but we are celebrating ourselves as a nation,” she said.

“That we came together and have voted for that change. That we will not accept injustice.”