Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Friday that he will seek to form a coalition government after his party trailed the independent candidates of his rival Imran Khan in preliminary results following the country’s parliamentary election.

Mr Sharif told reporters he was sending his younger brother, former Premier Shehbaz Sharif, to meet the leaders of other parties to join the coalition.

Nawaz Sharif had rejected the idea of a coalition just a day earlier, saying he wanted a single party running Pakistan.

Pakistan ElectionsA big screen showing the results of the country’s parliamentary elections at Pakistan Election Commission headquarters, in Islamabad (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

“We don’t have enough of a majority to form a government without the support of others and we invite allies to join the coalition so we can make joint efforts to pull Pakistan out of its problems,” he said.

Mr Khan, a former cricket star turned Islamist politician with a significant grassroots following, was disqualified from running in Thursday’s election because of criminal convictions against him.

He contends his sentences and the more than 150 legal cases still pending against him were politically motivated.

His party’s candidates had to run as independents in the election after they were barred from using the party symbol — a cricket bat — to help illiterate voters find them on ballots.

Of the 200 National Assembly results announced by the country’s election oversight body as of Friday evening, candidates backed by Mr Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI, had won 85 seats.

The Pakistan Muslim League of his rival, three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, had 59 seats.

Pakistan ElectionsPolice officers stand guard at the main entrance of the sports complex, where the regional office of the election commission is located to compile the country’s parliamentary elections (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)

The partial results released on Friday showed the Pakistan People’s Party of Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the son of the assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, in third place with 44 seats.

Final results were expected by Friday night.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari did not respond to requests for comment about his party’s performance.

The circumstances of Mr Sharif and Mr Kahn on election day represented a reversal of fortunes for the two men.

Mr Sharif returned to Pakistan in October after four years of self-imposed exile abroad to avoid serving prison sentences.

Within weeks of his return, his convictions were overturned, leaving him free to seek a fourth term in office.