by Kathy Gannon
ISLAMABAD ( Associated Press) – Pakistani lawmakers are to choose a new prime minister on Monday, during a week of political drama that saw Imran Khan as prime minister and a constitutional crisis after stepping into the country’s top court. was reduced.
The leading contender is Shahbaz Sharif, opposition legislator and brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. But his election will not guarantee a clear path – or solve many of Pakistan’s economic problems, including high inflation and a growing energy crisis.
Khan, a former cricket star whose conservative Islamist ideology and staunch independence characterized his three-year and eight-month term, was kicked out in the early hours of Sunday after losing a no-confidence vote in parliament. Left out by his party allies and a key coalition ally, his opposition ousted Khan by 174 votes – two more than the simple majority required in the 342-seat National Assembly.
The opposition has chosen Shahbaz Sharif as the prime ministerial candidate, claiming they have enough votes in his favour.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf or Pakistan Justice Party has fielded former foreign minister and veteran politician Shah Mehmood Qureshi as its candidate. But Qureshi courted controversy on Sunday by saying that several legislators of Khan’s party were considering resigning from Parliament after voting for the prime minister on Monday.
In a show of strength and precursor to further political uncertainty, Khan rallied hundreds of thousands of supporters late Sunday to protest his ouster, and described the next government as a “imposed government”. In cities across Pakistan, Khan’s supporters waved big party flags and pledged support. The youth, who formed the backbone of Khan’s supporters, dominated the crowd.
Some were crying while some were shouting slogans promising Khan’s return.
Khan has also called for early elections, although voting is not to be held before August 2023. He has tapped into anti-American sentiment in Pakistan by accusing Washington of conspiring with his opponents. His conspiracy theory resonates with his youth support base, which often views Washington’s post-9/11 war of terrorism as unfairly targeting Pakistan.
Pakistan’s political drama began on April 3, when Khan bypassed an initial no-confidence vote demanded by the opposition by dissolving parliament and calling for early elections. The opposition, which accused Khan of financial mismanagement, appealed in the Supreme Court. After four days of deliberation, the court ordered the reinstatement of Parliament and the no-confidence motion went ahead. After a marathon parliament session that began on Saturday and also saw the resignation of parliament speaker Asad Qaiser. Khan was thrown out in the early hours of Sunday.
Khan claims that the opposition colluded with Washington to topple him because of his independent foreign policy in favor of China and Russia. He was also criticized for a visit to Moscow on 24 February, where he held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin as Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine.
The US State Department has denied any involvement in Pakistan’s internal politics.
The road ahead will be a stormy one for the opposition coalition, which includes parties crossing political divides from leftists to hardline religious. The two largest parties are the Pakistan Muslim League, headed by Sharif, and the Pakistan People’s Party, co-chaired by the son and husband of the late former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
In Pakistan, a few wealthy and powerful families have dominated politics for decades, with power often shifting between the Sharif and Bhutto camps. Both political houses have been accused and at times convicted of widespread corruption – and both have denied the charges.
Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court in 2015 after being convicted in connection with financial irregularities uncovered in the so-called Panama Papers – a collection of leaked secret financial documents showing how some of the world’s richest lost their money Hides and incorporates a global law firm. Based in Panama. He was disqualified from holding office by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Bhutto’s husband Asif Ali Zardari, who served as Pakistan’s president after the 2008 elections, was jailed for more than seven years after pleading guilty to corruption charges.
Both the families have dismissed the corruption charges against them as politically motivated.
When Khan came to power in 2018, he promised to break family rule in Pakistan, but his detractors claimed he won the election with the help of the mighty military, which has ruled Pakistan for half the time in the country’s 75-year history .
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted in a military coup in 1999, and Benazir Bhutto’s government was ousted several times by the military following their protests. In Pakistani politics, where loyalty is often fluid, Bhutto’s sharp opposition came from Sharif’s party.
Shahbaz Sharif has served three times as chief minister of Pakistan’s largest, most influential Punjab province, where 60% of the country’s 220 million people live. His son Hamza was last week elected by the Punjab provincial parliament as the new chief minister, replacing Khan’s candidate. Khan’s party is challenging that election and the younger Sharif is yet to take oath.
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