Political change in Pakistan as Shehbaz Sharif seeks to become prime minister

ISLAMABAD, April 10 (Reuters) – Opposition politician Shehbaz Sharif presented his nomination as Pakistan’s prime minister to the Legislative Assembly on Sunday, his party said, after incumbent President Imran Khan lost a vote of no confidence in Parliament after nearly four years in power.

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

But Khan’s party has also submitted documents naming the former foreign minister as their candidate, saying their MPs would resign en masse if he loses, potentially creating the need for urgent by-elections for their seats.

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Khan, the first Pakistani prime minister to be ousted in a vote of no confidence, had hung on for nearly a week after a united opposition initially tried to impeach him.

On Sunday, he repeated claims that a foreign plot was behind the regime change.

“The struggle for freedom starts again today,” he said via his Twitter account, which is followed by more than 15 million people and still describes him as Pakistan’s prime minister in its biography section.

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

“I say to all my followers across Pakistan, on Sunday after Isha (evening) prayers, you all must come out of your homes and protest peacefully against this imported government trying to come to power,” a- he said in a speech. to the nation on Friday.

His government fell in the early hours of Sunday after a 1 p.m. session that included repeated delays and lengthy speeches by lawmakers from his Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

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

Khan’s former information minister, Fawad Chaudhry, told reporters of the resignation plan if their candidate does not win.

The speaker would be forced to accept resignations that would require by-elections in probably more than 100 seats.

This could plunge the country into another crisis, as the electoral commission previously said it would not be ready to hold elections until October.

ROLE OF THE MILITARY?

Two sources who declined to be identified said the vote that ousted Khan took place after powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa met Khan, amid mounting criticism over the delay of the parliamentary process. The Supreme Court also ordered Parliament to call and hold the vote.

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

He viewed Khan and his conservative agenda favorably when he won the 2018 election, but that support dwindled after a falling out over the appointment of the influential military intelligence chief and economic turmoil led to the biggest rise in interest rates for decades this week. Read more

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

Shehbaz Sharif said Khan’s departure was a chance for a fresh start.

“A new dawn has begun… This alliance will rebuild Pakistan,” he told parliament on Sunday.

Sharif served for years as chief minister of Punjab province and has a reputation as an efficient administrator. Read more

His first tasks would be to repair relations with the powerful military as well as allies of the United States, and to deal with a flagging economy.

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

“There are going to be divisions and differences among the main coalition partners,” said Mosharraf Zaidi, senior researcher at the Tabadlab think tank, adding that the first likely hurdle would be rising fuel prices in the coming months. days.

“They will face both internal resistance within the coalition and perhaps even criticism from coalition members in the first few days or even weeks,” he said. he added.

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Reporting by Asif Shahzad, Syed Reza Hassan and Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam in Islamabad, Writing by Alasdair Pal and Charlotte Greenfield, Editing by Robert Birsel, Angus MacSwan and Barbara Lewis

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