Pakistani lawmakers elect Shahbaz Sharif as new prime minister

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Supporters of ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party take part in a rally to condemn the ousting of their leader’s government, in Karachi, Pakistan on Sunday, April 10, 2022. With the parliamentary no-confidence vote against Khan early on Sunday, he has called on supporters to take to the streets in protest and the political opposition is preparing to install his replacement. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

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Pakistan’s parliament on Monday elected opposition MP Shahbaz Sharif as the country’s new prime minister, after a walkout by MPs from ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party.

Sharif was the only contestant. He is the brother of disgraced former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, but his election will not guarantee a clear path forward – nor will it solve Pakistan’s many economic problems, including high inflation and a growing energy crisis.

Shahbaz Sharif was elected with 174 votes in his favor after more than 100 lawmakers from Khan’s party staged a National Assembly walkout in protest.

“Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif is declared Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” interim President Asad Sadiq announced.

Khan, a former cricket star turned conservative Islamist politician, was ousted early on Sunday after being dumped by his party allies and a key coalition partner. The opposition ousted Khan with 174 votes, two more than the simple majority required in the 342-seat National Assembly.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani lawmakers gathered Monday to choose a new prime minister, capping a tumultuous week of political drama that saw the ousting of Imran Khan as prime minister and a narrowly averted constitutional crisis after the intervention of the highest court in the country.

But lawmakers from the Pakistan Khan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or Pakistan Justice Party, resigned collectively just before the vote and more than 100 of them quit the National Assembly.

The walkout followed an impassioned speech by Khan’s ally Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who defended Khan, praising what he described as Khan’s independence and refusal to bow to American pressure. “We are boycotting this election in accordance with our party’s decision, and we are stepping down,” Qureshi said.

After the walkout, opposition lawmakers began voting for the new prime minister, with opposition MP Shahbaz Sharif the only candidate. He is the brother of disgraced former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, but his election will not guarantee a clear path forward – nor will it solve Pakistan’s many economic problems, including high inflation and a growing energy crisis.

Khan, a former cricket star whose conservative Islamist ideology and stubborn independence characterized his three years and eight months in office, was ousted early on Sunday after losing a vote of no confidence in parliament. Abandoned by his party allies and a key coalition partner, the opposition ousted Khan with 174 votes, two more than the simple majority required in the 342-seat National Assembly.

In a show of strength and a precursor to the political uncertainty to come, Khan rallied hundreds of thousands of supporters Sunday night to protest his ousting, and described the next government as an “imposed government”. In cities across Pakistan, Khan’s supporters marched, waving large party flags and swearing their support. Young people, who form the backbone of Khan’s supporters, dominated the crowds.

Some wept, others shouted slogans promising Khan’s return.

Khan also demanded a snap election – the poll is not expected until August 2023. He tapped into anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, accusing Washington of conspiring with his opponents to overthrow him. His conspiracy theory resonates with his young support base, which often sees Washington’s post-9/11 war on terror as unfairly targeting Pakistan.

Pakistan’s political drama began on April 3 when Khan avoided a first no-confidence vote demanded by the opposition by dissolving parliament and calling a snap election. The opposition, which accuses Khan of economic mismanagement, appealed to the Supreme Court. After four days of deliberations, the court ordered the reinstatement of Parliament and the vote of no confidence was held. A marathon session of parliament began on Saturday and Khan was ousted early on Sunday.

Khan claims the opposition colluded with Washington to overthrow him, allegedly because of his independent foreign policy favoring China and Russia. He also came under fire for a February 24 visit to Moscow, 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 domestic politics.

The road ahead will be stormy for the opposition coalition, made up of parties that cross the political divide, from the left to the radically religious. The two largest parties are the Pakistan Muslim League, led by Shahbaz Sharif, and the Pakistan People’s Party, co-chaired by the son and husband of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

In Pakistan, a few wealthy and powerful families have dominated politics for decades, with power mostly alternating between the Sharif and Bhutto camps. Both political houses have been accused and sometimes convicted of widespread corruption – and both have denied the allegations.

Nawaz Sharif was overthrown by the Supreme Court in 2015 after being convicted of financial irregularities revealed in the so-called Panama Papers – a collection of leaked secret financial documents showing how some of the world’s wealthiest hide their money and implicating a firm global lawyers based in Panama. He was disqualified by the Supreme Court of Pakistan from holding office.

Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s husband who served as Pakistan’s president after the 2008 elections, spent more than seven years in prison, convicted of corruption.

Both families dismissed the corruption allegations against them as politically motivated.

Khan came to power in 2018 vowing to smash family rule in Pakistan, but his opponents say he won the election with the help of the mighty military, which has ruled Pakistan for half of Pakistan’s 75-year history. country’s history.

Nawaz Sharif was also overthrown in 1999 in a military coup, and Benazir Bhutto’s government was overthrown several times after the army sided with her opposition. In Pakistani politics, where loyalties are often fluid, Bhutto’s fiercest opposition often came from Sharif’s party.

Shahbaz Sharif was three times chief minister of Punjab province, the largest and most influential in Pakistan, where 60% of the country’s 220 million people live. His son Hamza was elected last week by the Punjab provincial parliament as the new chief minister, ousting Khan’s candidate. Khan’s party is contesting this election and the young Sharif has not yet been sworn in.

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Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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