Shehbaz Sharif elected Pakistan PM for second term after controversial vote

Sharif returns to the role he held until August last year when parliament was dissolved ahead of the February 8 election.

Pakistani legislators have elected Shehbaz Sharif as the country’s prime minister for a second term following a controversial election last month.

The South Asian country voted on February 8 in a vote marred by allegations of large-scale rigging and delayed results. On Sunday, the National Assembly, as the lower house of parliament is called, met to elect the premier.

“Shehbaz Sharif is declared to have been elected the prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq said.

Shehbaz secured 201 votes in the 336-member National Assembly, comfortably prevailing over rival Omar Ayub Khan, who won 92. The winner needed at least 169 votes.

Khan was backed by the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), the political group legislators belonging to former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party joined after the PTI was barred from contesting for allegedly violating election laws.

Sharif, 72, served as prime minister until August last year when the National Assembly was dissolved to make way for a caretaker government, tasked with holding the national elections.

Shehbaz is the younger brother of three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who founded the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) party, which is in alliance with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to form the government. Shehbaz is also the current PMLN president.

The PTI, which was forced to field its candidates as independents after losing its election symbol, had emerged as the largest group with 93 seats. The party alleges its mandate was “stolen” and has also kicked off street protests against the alleged rigging.

PTI leader Khan, who was removed through a parliamentary vote of no confidence in 2022, has been in jail since August last year following multiple convictions, including for revealing state secrets, corruption, and an “unlawful” wedding.

Supporters of ex-PM Imran Khan protest ‘blatant rigging in election’ in Karachi [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

Ruckus in parliament

The National Assembly session on Sunday had a delayed and chaotic start after the legislators belonging to the PTI-backed SIC raised slogans alleging Shehbaz came to power through electoral rigging.

“We will change the fate of Pakistan,” Sharif said in his victory speech amid raucous protest and slogans by the PTI-linked legislators who shouted “Thieves!” – a reference to corruption allegations against the Sharif brothers.

Nawaz Sharif was convicted of corruption in 2018 when he went to the United Kingdom on a self-imposed exile. He returned in October last year for the polls.

In his speech, Shehbaz thanked his elder brother and the allies for helping him become the prime minister. “Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari never even thought of harming Pakistan,” he said, the last two being his PPP allies.

The newly-elected PM said he aimed to bring political stability in the country. “We will work closely with all four provinces and I promise I will keep them along,” he said.

In his address, the leader of opposition, Omar Ayub Khan, defended his jailed leader, Imran Khan, and accused Shehbaz of not following the law himself.

“They put our leaders in jail, took our election symbol, rigged the elections, but we kept standing, and we will stand our ground,” Khan told parliament. “The nation has rejected all the charges [in the election],” he said.

Pakistan, a country of 241 million people, is faced with political instability as it battles a declining economy and a rapidly deteriorating security situation.


Source: AlJazeera

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