Pakistan Elects Shehbaz Sharif as Prime Minister Amidst Controversy

Shehbaz Sharif becomes Pakistan’s premier as opponents in parliament allege rigging

Lawmakers in Pakistan’s National Assembly elected Shehbaz Sharif as the country’s new prime minister for the second time amid protests from allies of imprisoned former premier Imran Khan, who alleged rigging in last month’s election.

Imran Khan, currently serving prison terms in multiple cases and disqualified from holding office, was replaced by Sharif in April 2022 following a no-confidence vote in parliament.

Speaker Ayaz Sadiq announced Sharif’s victory with 201 votes, defeating Omar Ayub of the Sunni Ittehad Council, who received 92 votes. The required majority is 169 votes.

Ayub was supported by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI), which failed to secure enough seats independently. The PTI declined coalition talks with rivals.

After negotiations, Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League party and allies formed an alliance post the Feb. 8 election, marked by violence, mobile network shutdowns, Khan’s exclusion, and result delays for security reasons.

Khan’s party criticized the delay, alleging vote rigging, a claim denied by the Election Commission.

In his acceptance speech, Sharif addressed past political victimization and proposed reconciliation. He accused Khan’s supporters of attacking military installations in the 2022 protests and suggested parliament and courts decide on pardoning the perpetrators.

Shehbaz Sharif
Shehbaz Sharif (Credits: CNN)

Some lawmakers protested during Sharif’s speech, accusing him of vote theft, prompting Sharif to urge presenting evidence to authorities.

Sharif expressed intent to mend ties with the U.S. and acknowledged economic challenges, including reliance on foreign loans, militant attacks, ties with Afghanistan, infrastructure decay, power shortages, and political stability amidst PTI protests.

Ayub praised Khan’s resilience against legal battles and reiterated allegations of vote tampering, demanding an inquiry.

Khan’s recent letter to the IMF urging an audit of the election was criticized by Sharif, ahead of a crucial bailout installment.

Sharif, set to be sworn in on Monday, received congratulations from Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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