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Allies of ex-premier Imran Khan secure biggest share of seats in Pakistan鈥檚 final election tally

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ISLAMABAD (AP) 鈥 Allies of imprisoned Pakistani ex-premier Imran Khan won more seats in national elections than the political parties who ousted him from power nearly two years ago, according to a final tally of results published Sunday.

The vote last Thursday to choose a new parliament was overshadowed by allegations of vote-rigging, an unprecedented mobile phone shutdown, and the exclusion of Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI, from the vote.

People from the PTI ran as independent candidates because of moves by the Election Commission and Supreme Court to cripple their party鈥檚 participation. One step included stripping the party of its electoral symbol, which helps illiterate voters find candidates on the ballot. Another was banning party rallies.

Khan, who was kicked out of office through a no-confidence vote in parliament in 2022, has been in prison since last August. He was barred from contesting the vote because of his criminal convictions and contends his sentences and the slew of legal cases against him are politically motivated.

The final tally showed that independent candidates secured 101 out of 266 seats in the National Assembly, or lower house of parliament.

The Pakistan Muslim League-N party, or PML-N, led by three-time premier and ex-felon Nawaz Sharif, secured the second biggest number of seats at 75.

The Pakistan People鈥檚 Party, or PPP, led by Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, came in third with 54 seats. One result has been withheld and another vote was postponed because of a candidate鈥檚 death. The campaign to kick Khan out of office in 2022 was led by the PML-N and the PPP.

No party has won a majority to form a government, so Pakistan will have a coalition. The new parliament chooses the country鈥檚 next prime minister.

The election result is an embarrassment for Sharif, who was marked out as the powerful security establishment鈥檚 preferred candidate because of his smooth return to the country last October. Pakistan鈥檚 military has always cast itself as the ultimate arbiter in who becomes prime minister.

Sharif spent four years in self-exile abroad to avoid serving prison sentences but his convictions were overturned within weeks of his arrival in Pakistan.

Even on polling day, Sharif insisted he didn鈥檛 want a coalition and demanded a full five-year term for one party. By Friday evening, seeing his party trail behind the independent candidates backed by Khan, he spoke of alliances and joining hands.

Sharif has never completed a term in office.