Full results are yet to arrive, but local media reports suggest the PTI and its allies have gained ground in the Senate, perhaps enough to secure a majority.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will seek a vote of confidence in parliament after the government’s finance minister lost his candidacy for a Senate seat in Wednesday’s election, the foreign minister said.

Khan’s ruling party Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and his political allies were trying to wrest control of the Pakistani Senate from opposition parties in indirect elections, with 37 seats in the 104-member upper house of parliament.

Full results are yet to arrive, but local media reports suggest the PTI and its allies have gained ground in the Senate, perhaps enough to secure a majority.

However, an election official announced that Khan’s finance minister Abdul Hafiz Sheikh had failed to win the seat he was contesting.

The loss represents a severe blow to Khan and the government, as the electoral college in Sheikh’s case was the lower house of parliament, which chooses the country’s prime minister and in 2018 gave Khan a majority.

Sheikh is also leading crucial talks with the international lender, the IMF, in an effort to stabilize the economy. However, he can continue as finance minister, which means the political damage is largely symbolic at this point.

“Imran Khan and his party have reached a consensus decision that Imran Khan will take a vote of confidence in parliament,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a press conference.

Information Minister Shibli Faraz told Geo News the move was intended to show Khan’s political opponents that he still has the confidence of parliament and that it was “a sign of a brave man.”

The Senate competition was designed as a gauge of confidence in Khan’s administration, Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, head of independent research organization PILDAT, told Reuters.

Pakistani financial advisory firm Topline Securities said in an advisory note immediately after the Sheikh siege outcome was announced that the loss was likely to increase pressure on the ruling party.

Opposition parties, which united behind a mass protest campaign to oust Khan, called for the dissolution of the government and new elections.

If Khan and his allies secure a majority in the Senate when the final results are in, it could help him pass key legislation that has stalled in the chamber and slowed progress in talks with the IMF.

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