Pakistan prime minister-in-waiting Imran Khan's party is eyeing to form government in Punjab, the most populated province of the country, with the help of independents even as its rival, jailed former premier Nawaz Sharif's party, is slightly ahead of it in the number game.
With 127 seats won, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which ruled the province of over 100 million population for the last two terms from 2008-2018, has failed to secure simple majority to form the government in Punjab.
In the 297-member House, 149 seats are required to form the government.
Mr Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) bagged 123 seats and its ally PML-Q got seven. As many as 27 seats have gone to independent candidates, most of whom parted ways with the PML-N before the polls and chose to contest independently.
With an apparent inclination of the independents towards joining PTI, Mr Khan's party appeared to be in a comfortable position to form the government in Punjab.
"With PML-Q and Independent members, we will easily form the government in Punjab," PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry told PTI today.
He said his party is in talks with the independents and claimed that most of them will soon announce joining PTI.
"We will find no problem in achieving the 149 number to form the government," Mr Chaudhry said.
Meanwhile, Hamza Shahbaz, son of PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, said PTI should respect the PML-N mandate in Punjab.
"We have emerged single largest party in Punjab despite rigging and Mr Khan should respect our mandate and we should be allowed to form the government in the province," he said.
The names of PTI leaders Aleem Khan and Mahmoodur Rashid and PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi are doing the round for the chief minister's slot.
Former foreign minister and PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi was considered favourite to become the Punjab chief minister but since he lost a provincial seat, he is out of the race. Qureshi has won a National Assembly seat from his hometown Multan and is being tipped as new foreign minister in the PTI-led government.