Shehbaz Sharif set to be new Pakistan PM

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Islamabad: Pakistan’s Opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif is likely to be elected the new Prime Minister of Pakistan on Monday after the ouster of Imran Khan through a no-confidence vote by the joint Opposition, reported PTI.

Pakistan’s National Assembly will convene to elect a prime minister on Monday. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Sharif, 70, and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) vice-chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday filed their nomination papers for the post.

The process of electing the new leader of the house began on Sunday after Khan was removed from office through a no-confidence vote, becoming the first premier in the country’s history to be sent home after losing the trust of the House.

The Opposition had mustered 174 votes to oust Khan. If they can repeat it on Monday, Sharif will be the next prime minister of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet division on Sunday de-notified 52 members of the federal Cabinet after the historic vote of no-confidence by the joint Opposition.

The nomination papers of Sharif, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president have been accepted by the National Assembly Secretariat after objections raised by the PTI were rejected.

Qureshi’s nomination papers were also accepted.

Senior PTI leader Babar Awan challenged Sharif’s candidature, saying that the PML-N chief faced several court cases.

In 2019, the National Accountability Bureau arrested Shehbaz and his son, Hamza Sharif, accusing them of money laundering.

Meanwhile, the PTI is mulling withdrawing its lawmakers from the National Assembly and launching a movement against the new upcoming government, which is likely to be headed by Sharif, who has served as the Chief Minister of Punjab three times.

Khan chaired a meeting of the core committee of his party.

“The core committee has recommended to Imran Khan that we should resign from the assemblies. We are starting from the National Assembly. If our objections against Shehbaz Sharif’s nomination papers are not (entertained), we will submit the resignations tomorrow,” PTI leader and former minister Fawad Chaudhry told reporters after the party held a core committee meeting at the residence of Khan.

As the PTI core committee remained indecisive whether to go for en masse resignations of its lawmakers or not, the party chairman called the parliamentary party meeting at the Parliament House at 12 noon on Monday to make a final decision.

Whether Qureshi will contest the election for the premiership or will resign along with other MNAs of the PTI and its allies depends on the outcome of the PTI parliamentary meeting.

In the house of 342, the winner would need 172 votes to become the new prime minister.

Meanwhile, a large number of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) supporters held a protest rally at Lahore’s Liberty Chowk against the ouster of Khan.

Big gatherings were also reported from other parts of the Punjab province, including Faisalabad, Multan, Gujranwala, Vehari, Jhelum and Gujrat districts. Islamabad and Karachi also witnessed major gatherings of PTI supporters.

Protests broke out in different cities after 9 pm on Sunday and continued for several hours on Khan’s call.

In the UK, PTI and PML-N supporters confronted each other during a rowdy demonstration outside Avenfield apartments, the residence of the Sharif family in London.

Khan in his first comments since his ouster tweeted: “Pakistan became an independent state in 1947; but the freedom struggle begins again today against a foreign conspiracy of regime change. It is always the people of the country who defend their sovereignty & democracy.” Before filing the nomination, Sharif offered “special thanks” to those who stood up “for the Constitution!” “I don’t want to go back to the bitterness of the past. We want to forget them and move forward. We will not take revenge or do injustice; we will not send people to jail for no reason, law and justice will take its course,” he said while addressing the National Assembly early Sunday.

It will be a real challenge for Sharif to shepherd the motley herd that also includes four independent candidates and allow Parliament to complete its five-year term that will end in August next year.

Ex-president and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chair Asif Ali Zardari had proposed Sharif’s name for prime minister in a joint Opposition meeting.

Zardari’s son Bilawal Bhutto is likely to be appointed as the new foreign minister.

Pakistan has struggled with political instability since its formation in 1947 with multiple regime changes and military coups. No prime minister has ever completed a full five-year term.

Khan apparently lost the support of the powerful Army after he refused to endorse the appointment of the ISI spy agency chief last year. Finally, he agreed but it soured his ties with the army, which has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy.

Gen Bajwa last week appeared to distance himself from Khan’s anti-US stance and said Pakistan wants good relations with Washington, its largest export trading partner and with China, Islamabad’s all-weather ally.

Khan has been claiming that the Opposition’s no-trust motion against him was the result of a “foreign conspiracy” because of his independent foreign policy. He has named the US as the country behind the conspiracy, a charge denied by Washington.

Khan, who came to power in 2018 with promises to create a ‘Naya Pakistan’, was dogged by claims of economic mismanagement and his government battled depleting foreign exchange reserves and double-digit inflation.

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