Rivals of Pakistan ex-premier Khan name Shehbaz Sharif as joint candidate for PM

The political rivals of Pakistan’s imprisoned former prime minister Imran Khan have announced details of a powersharing agreement, naming Shehbaz Sharif as their joint candidate for prime minister.

The much-awaited announcement followed days of talks among the leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), and other parties who did not gain enough seats in the February 8 vote to govern on their own.

Candidates aligned with Khan won the most seats in the parliamentary elections but also did not win enough of them to form a government.

Mr Sharif, the brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, is himself a former prime minister, who replaced Khan when he was ousted through a no-confidence vote in parliament in 2022.

A supporter walks past a poster of imprisoned former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan
A supporter walks past a poster of imprisoned former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan (Anjum Naveed/AP)

Khan’s rivals said at a late-night news conference of party leaders that they had secured the required majority of votes to form a coalition government.

The parliament will elect Shehbaz Sharif of the PML as the new prime minister when the inaugural session of the National Assembly is convened later this month, the party leaders said.

They also said the country’s former president Asif Ali Zardari of the PPP will be the joint candidate for the office of the president when the new parliament and all the four provincial legislatures elect the successor of the outgoing President Arif Ali in the coming weeks.

Hours earlier on Tuesday, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party asked for the resignation of the head of Pakistan’s Election Commission, Sikandar Sultan Raja, for allegedly failing to conduct the elections in a free and fair manner.

Khan’s party claims the victories of dozens of its candidates were converted into defeat, a claim the elections oversight body denies.

Though Khan’s candidates won 93 out of 265 National Assembly seats in the elections, it was not enough to form a government.

Mr Sharif’s PML and Mr Zardari’s PPP won 75 and 54 seats respectively.

Khan is currently serving multiple prison terms after being sentenced to a total of 31 years in prison on charges of corruption, revealing official secrets and marriage law violations in late January and early February during trials at a prison in Rawalpindi.

The surprisingly strong showing for Khan’s party in the recent elections were a shock for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who had earlier been marked out as the powerful security establishment’s preferred candidate.

Shehbaz Sharif, his younger brother, thanked his allies for agreeing to choose him as their joint candidate for prime minister.

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