Shehbaz Sharif set to become Pakistan’s Prime Minister for a second time

PTI, Mar 3, 2024, 9:36 AM IST

Senior PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif is set to become the next prime minister of Pakistan on Sunday to lead a coalition government after last month’s elections produced a split mandate.

Shehbaz, 72, who is the consensus candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), submitted his nomination on Saturday.

His challenger Omar Ayub Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) too has filed his papers, setting the stage for Sunday’s election, expected to be a one-sided affair.

The PML-N president Shehbaz is the younger brother of former three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, 74, who sprang a surprise last month after being projected as the party’s prime ministerial candidate ahead of the February 8 elections, marred by alleged vote rigging.

Nawaz Sharif, who returned to Pakistan from London in October last year to become Pakistan’s prime minister for a record fourth time, decided against contesting as his PML-N party failed to garner enough seats in the February 8 elections to form a government on its own.

The elections saw more than 90 independent candidates backed by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s PTI winning the maximum number of seats in the 336-member National Assembly.

However, in a post-poll alliance, the Mutahhida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party, and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have all backed the PML-N’s candidate, ensuring that Shehbaz Sharif will be smoothly elected as the 33rd prime minister. Ayub, on the other hand, does not have the numbers.

To form a government, a party was to win 133 seats out of 265 contested seats. Some 70 seats are reserved for women and minorities, divided between parties on a proportional basis.

Voting in the National Assembly to elect the new prime minister would be held on Sunday, according to the National Assembly Secretariat.

The successful candidate will be administered the oath of office on Monday at the Presidential mansion, Aiwan-e-Sadr.

In the February 8 polls, the Sharifs-led party failed to garner a clear majority, albeit technically, it is the largest party with 75 out of 265 seats.

Shehbaz served as prime minister of a coalition government from April 2022 to August 2023 before Parliament was dissolved to hold general elections.

Besides the PPP, Shehbaz has the backing of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM-P), Pakistan Muslim League (Q), Balochistan Awami Party, Pakistan Muslim League (Z), Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party and the National Party, having a total of 205 lawmakers. Two National Assembly-elect members from the MQM-P and PPP have yet to take the oath. To become the leader of the house, Shehbaz requires 169 votes in the 336-member house.

On the other hand, the PTI-backed opposition has 102 lawmakers, out of which one member has not taken the oath. Meanwhile, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and Balochistan National Party (Mengal) are likely to boycott the poll.

At present, 304 lawmakers have taken oath whereas the Election Commission of Pakistan has so far withheld the notification of 23 reserved seats for women and minorities.

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