Thursday, June 13, 2024

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


Islamabad:  Top PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif is set to become the 33rd prime minister of Pakistan on Sunday, once again leading a coalition government, amidst allegations of rigging of polls and facing staggering economic and security challenges.

Shehbaz, who is the joint candidate of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), has already submitted his nomination. His challenger Omar Ayub Khan of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) too has filed his papers.

The PML-N president Shehbaz, 72, is the younger brother of former three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, 74.

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.

Shehbaz is known as an able administrator due to the swift execution of mega-development projects while serving as chief minister of the Punjab province. However, he failed to exhibit the qualities when elevated to serve as prime minister for a 16-month stint in 2022.

He faces the menacing challenges of a fragile economy and the increasing threat of terrorism. His government would also have to face the street power of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party which had been protesting against the alleged rigging of elections.

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. In a surprise move, the elder Sharif stepped back in favour of Shehbaz to allow him to lead the coalition as he is believed to have the knack of taking along diverse groups in the polarised country.

The PPP and four smaller parties have joined the coalition with the PPP supporting the government from outside in return for PML-N support for the election of its senior leader and former president Asif Ali Zardari as the president once again.

Shehbaz Sharif’s election as the prime minister is almost certain since the PML-N and PPP’s candidates for the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly were elected on Friday with a comfortable majority. Shehbaz served as prime minister of a coalition government from April 2022 to August 2023 before Parliament was dissolved to hold general elections.

Quoting “highly placed sources,” The News International newspaper reported that President Arif Alvi, known for his closeness to Imran Khan, has consented to administer the oath to the new prime minister.

Interestingly, President Alvi had declined – on the pretext of health problems – to administer the oath to Shehbaz Sharif in April 2022 when he became the prime minister unopposed after the ouster of the Imran Khan government through a no-confidence vote.

The term for Alvi, a PTI nominee, already expired last year but, as per Constitutional provisions, he will need to hold the post until the election of the new president, which is set to be held on March 9.


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