As the race to rope-in independent candidates intensifies, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed independent candidate Waseem Qadir announced joining the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) after winning against the latter's Sheikh Rohail Asghar from Lahore's NA-121 by more than 8,000 votes in February 8 polls.
The development comes as PML-N and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) commenced the talks for the formation of a future coalition government as neither of the parties succeeded in securing a simple majority — with PTI-backed candidates bagging 92 National Assembly seats, and PML-N and PPP securing 79 and 54 seats, respectively.
In a video statement, Qadir, pictured with PML-N's Chief Organiser, said: "I am Waseem Qadir. I was PTI’s Lahore secretary-general. I have returned to my home."
"For the development of my constituency and my people, I have joined Muslim League-Noon again," Qadir said.
The party of former prime minister Nawaz is second with 79 seats after Thursday's vote, lacking a clear majority but it is the largest single party in parliament as Imran Khan-backed independents ran as individuals.
Following the election results, both PTI and PML-N declared victory, adding to the uncertainty as the country faces numerous urgent challenges, including negotiating a new International Monetary Fund programme to keep a struggling economy afloat.
A prime ministerial candidate has to show a simple majority of 169 seats in the National Assembly when the house is called in the coming days. This will be determined by coalition talks and whether Khan-backed candidates are able to join a smaller party in parliament to form a single bloc to gain reserve seats.
In the lead-up to the elections, Qadir campaigned and called on the people to vote for him as he was the candidate of the incarcerated Khan.
The PTI had, prior to the elections, cautioned that independents might switch loyalties, but at the same time, hoped that they would not desert the party.
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