Shehbaz elected Pakistan PM for second time, Zardari to be president

Connie Queline

Shehbaz elected Pakistan PM for second time, Zardari to be president

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan‘s national assembly elected PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif PM for a second term on Sunday amid shouts of “chor, chor, mandate chor” by opposing legislators, nearly a month after inconclusive national and provincial polls marred by accusations of rigging and an internet blackout meant to allegedly manipulate the results.
Ally PPP’s co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari will become the country’s President for the second time.
Legislators backed by imprisoned former PM Imran Khan‘s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) were up in protest the moment speaker Ayaz Sadiq announced that Shehbaz had polled 201 votes, defeating Omar Ayub Khan of Sunni Ittehad Council, who got 92 votes.
Shehbaz needed 169 votes to get a majority in a 336-member House, 70 of them nominated to reserved seats.
Slogans about him wresting the reins through vote theft, a charge the country’s election commission has consistently rebutted, rent the hall as PML-N founder and former PM Nawaz Sharif hugged his sibling.
Shehbaz’s victory wasn’t unexpected given the support of PPP and seven other parties. The 72-year-old had served as PM until last August, when Parliament was dissolved to make way for a caretaker government with the mandate to hold elections in a few months.
His new government faces multiple challenges, including an ailing economy, high inflation, militant attacks, power outages, and tense relations with neighbours. But PTI’s protests inside and outside Parliament suggest stability is nowhere near. Imran’s party has vowed to continue its agitation against alleged vote-rigging.
In the February 8 polls, no party got a majority. With PTI losing its election symbol in an administrative and electoral crackdown over corruption and other allegations, its candidates were forced to contest as Independents.
Imran’s bloc still emerged as the largest with 93 seats. PML-N finished with 76 seats and PPP won 54 seats.
Imran, who was removed as PM through a parliamentary no-trust vote in April 2022, has been in jail since August following multiple convictions, including disclosure of state secrets and corruption. He has been sentenced to at least 14 years in prison.
In February, Imran and his current wife Bushra Bibi were sentenced to a further seven years in prison after a district court ruled their 2018 marriage illegal, stating it was contracted in a hurry without the completion of ‘iddat’ (a mandatory waiting period for a woman after divorce or death of her previous husband). The former cricketer has rejected the charges as politically motivated.
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