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Cracks appear in Pakistan’s shaky opposition as Imran Khan takes over as PM

During the voting in the National Assembly on Friday, the PPP abstained and its members left soon after the Speaker announced Khan’s victory.

world Updated: Aug 18, 2018 11:32 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Pakistan,Imran Khan,Bilawal Butto
Supporters of Pakistan Peoples party hold a placard with the pictures of (L-R) late former Pakistani premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter late former premier Benazir Bhutto and grandson Bilawal Bhutto during the first session of the parliament after the general election, in Islamabad on August 13, 2018.(AFP Photo)

Even before Imran Khan’s election as the new prime minister, cracks appeared in the shaky opposition coalition that was supposed to make it difficult for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party to form government.

Both Bilawal Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party and the right-wing Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal party have decided not to vote for PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif, who was earlier the joint candidate of the opposition in the election of the premier.

Though Sharif was not expected to win, the fielding of a joint candidate was meant to send out a message about the opposition’s unity. During the voting in the National Assembly on Friday, the PPP abstained and its members left soon after the Speaker announced Khan’s victory.

Liaquat Baloch, leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, which is part of the MMA, said on Thursday the PML-N has flouted decisions taken during an all-party conference. He said his party is not bound to vote for the PML-N nominee. The joint opposition needs to set its priorities in a clear and candid manner, he added.

PPP leader Chaudhry Manzoor had on Wednesday confirmed his party had decided not to vote for Sharif. He said his party leadership had informed the PML-N at least three days ago that their MPs will not vote for Sharif.

The PPP leader, however, indicated his party would have voted for a joint candidate from the opposition if the PML-N had fielded a candidate other than Sharif.

Read | Ball tampering to family drama: Six interesting facts about Imran Khan

In these circumstances, it was smooth sailing for Khan when Parliament voted for the Leader of the House. A total of 176 lawmakers in the lower house voted for Khan to steer the country over the next five years after Pakistan made its second democratic transition, while Sharif bagged 96 votes.

The “joint” opposition is facing a strengthened PTI in the National Assembly, where the party is currently in a majority. Its strength was displayed on Wednesday during the election of the Speaker – PTI’s Asad Qaiser secured 176 votes against PPP’s Khursheed Shah, who managed 146 votes.

Local media reported that while ousted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif serves his sentence at a jail in Rawalpindi, his younger brother is struggling to spin the same magic. Shehbaz Sharif will take on the mantle of the lower house’s leader of opposition and try to give a united face to the opposition as it acts as a bulwark against the ruling PTI.

First Published: Aug 18, 2018 07:38 IST