Shehbaz Sharif elected as Pakistan PM unopposed

Shehbaz Sharif
FILE PHOTO: Leader of the opposition Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, brother of ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, gestures as he speaks to the media at the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Islamabad, Pakistan April 7, 2022. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro/File Photo

Islamabad: Pakistan National Assembly's crucial session on Monday elected unopposed Opposition candidate and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif as the next Prime Minister, according to reports. 

In a related development, a court on Monday deferred until April 27 the indictment of Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz in a high-profile money laundering case and also extended their pre-arrest bail till then, paving the way for Shehbaz Sharif  to take the oath of office.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's prime minister candidate Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday announced that his party will boycott the voting to elect new premier in Parliament minutes after the National Assembly's crucial session began to elect Imran Khan's successor.
Taking the floor, former foreign minister Qureshi said that the nation has two paths - one path is of self-respect while the other one is of slavery.
He appreciated ousted premier Khan for trusting him by nominating him and said the constitutional process has to end today as some will be declared a winner, while the other one will be declared free.

Shehbaz Sharif had submitted his nomination to be Pakistan's next prime minister to the legislature on Sunday, his party said, after incumbent Imran Khan lost a no-confidence vote in parliament after nearly four years in power.

The younger brother of three-times prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz, 70, has led a bid by the opposition in parliament to topple former cricket star Khan, and he is widely expected to replace him following a vote on Monday.

But Khan's party also submitted papers nominating the former foreign minister as a candidate, saying their members of parliament would resign en masse should he lose, potentially creating the need for urgent by-elections for their seats.

Khan, the first Pakistani prime minister to be ousted by a no confidence vote, had clung on for almost a week after a united opposition first tried to remove him.

On Sunday, he repeated allegations that a foreign conspiracy was behind the regime change.

"The freedom struggle begins again today," he said via his Twitter account, which is followed by more than 15 million and still describes him as Prime Minister of Pakistan in his biography section.

Even before the vote Khan had called for protests, which were expected to take place late on Sunday.

"I tell all of my supporters across Pakistan, on Sunday, after Isha (evening) prayers, you all have to come out of your homes and protest peacefully against this imported government that is trying to come to power," he said in an address to the nation on Friday.

His government fell in the early hours of Sunday after a 13-hour session that included repeated delays and lengthy speeches by lawmakers from his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

Opposition parties were able to secure 174 votes in the 342-member house for the no-confidence motion, giving them the majority they needed to enable Monday's vote to elect a new premier.

Pakistan Politics
Police officers stand guard to ensure security outside the National Assembly, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, April 9, 2022. Pakistan's embattled prime minister faces a tough no-confidence vote Saturday waged by his political opposition, which says it has the numbers to defeat him. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

Khan's former information minister Fawad Chaudhry told reporters of the plan for resignations if their nominee does not win.

The speaker would be obliged to accept those resignations that would necessitate by-elections in probably more than 100 seats.

That could plunge the country into another crisis as the election commission has previously said it would not be ready to hold elections until October.


Two sources who declined to be identified said the vote that ousted Khan went ahead after the powerful army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, met Khan, as criticism mounted over the delay to the parliamentary process. The Supreme Court has also ordered parliament to convene and hold the vote.

The military has ruled the country of 220 million people for almost half its nearly 75-year history.

It viewed Khan and his conservative agenda favourably when he won election in 2018, but that support waned after a falling-out over the appointment of the influential military intelligence chief and economic troubles that led to the largest interest rate rise in decades this week.

Khan had antagonised the United States throughout his tenure, welcoming the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last year and more recently accusing the United States of being behind the attempt to oust him. Washington dismissed the accusation.

Shehbaz Sharif said Khan's departure was a chance for a new beginning.

"A new dawn has started ... This alliance will rebuild Pakistan," he told parliament on Sunday.

Sharif was for years chief minister of Punjab province and has a reputation as an effective administrator.

His first tasks would be to repair relations with the powerful military as well as ally the United States, and tend to a stuttering economy.

Some analysts say navigating major political and economic hurdles with a united front would be a challenge for the new coalition, which comprises several diverse political parties.

"There are going to be divisions and divergences within the key coalition partners," said Mosharraf Zaidi, senior fellow at think tank Tabadlab, adding the first likely hurdle would be the raising of fuel prices in coming days.

"They are going to face both internal resistance within the coalition and possibly even criticism by coalition members and that will be in the first few days, not even weeks," he added.

(With inputs from PTI, Reuters)

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