Pak lawmakers set to vote in Shehbaz today
Sharif has a more friendly relationship with the powerful military and has served as a go-between for the PML-N and the army in the past.
Pakistan’s National Assembly will gather on Monday to elect a new prime minister following Imran Khan’s ouster in a trust vote, with senior PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif widely expected to be voted to the post by the combined opposition.
The election of Sharif, president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and younger brother of three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, is set to be a formality as the combined opposition has enough votes to cross the 172 mark in the 342-member House.
Sharif has a more friendly relationship with the powerful military and has served as a go-between for the PML-N and the army in the past. Most of his political career has been focused on Punjab province, where he served as chief minister several times, and he has little experience of playing a key role at the federal level.
Shortly after midnight on Sunday, Khan became the first Pakistani premier to lose a no-confidence motion in the National Assembly as 174 opposition lawmakers voted to remove him from the post. The voting was held after a day of fast paced and dramatic political developments and several attempts by former speaker Asad Qaiser, who belongs to Khan’s party, to delay the trust vote.
Sharif and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the vice chairman of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, filed their nomination papers for the election of the new prime minister on Sunday. There was a heated exchange between Qureshi and senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal during the filing of papers as PTI leaders raised objections to Sharif’s candidature.
The PTI leaders called for Sharif’s nomination papers to be rejected as there were court cases pending against him. The objections were rejected by officials and the papers of both candidates were accepted.
In his first response to his ouster from the post of prime minister, 69-year-old Khan indicated he would launch a campaign against a “foreign conspiracy of regime change”.
“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 and democracy,” Khan said in a tweet.
As he faced certain defeat in the vote of no confidence in recent weeks, the cricketer-turned-politician doubled down on allegations that the US was colluding with the opposition as part of a “foreign conspiracy” against his government. His allegation was based on a diplomatic cable sent by Pakistan’s former envoy to Washington following a meeting with a senior US state department official.
Khan has contended the cable quoted the US official as saying that bilateral relations wouldn’t improve as long as he remained the premier. Khan’s allegations have been bluntly denied by US officials several times.
Qureshi echoed Khan’s allegations during a speech in Parliament on Saturday. He claimed the US national security adviser telephoned his Pakistani counterpart and “asked us not to proceed with the Russia tour” by Khan in February.
Khan’s ouster came after he fell out with the army over a range of issues, including interference in the selection of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief late last year, his poor relationship with the Biden administration in the US and the mismanagement of the economy. Khan also shifted Pakistan closer to Russia and China.
As part of efforts to pressure the PML-N and its allies to call early elections, former information minister Fawad Chaudhry, a close aide of Khan, said on Sunday that PTI lawmakers will resign from the National Assembly after the new prime minister is sworn in.
Chaudhry told the media that a meeting of the PTI’s core executive committee had recommended to Khan that party MPs should resign from the national and provincial assemblies from Monday. “What can be more insulting for Pakistan than a foreign selected and foreign imported government being imposed on the country and a person like Shehbaz Sharif being made its head,” he said.