Parties reach deal to form new Pak govt; Imran Khan loyalists left out

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari announced that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif, 72, will assume the role of the prime minister once again

Islamabad: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Peoples Party have finally agreed on a power-sharing deal to form a coalition government led by former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif, a move that could effectively sideline their arch-rival, Imran Khan.

Both the PML-N and the PPP won fewer seats in Parliament than candidates backed by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan in an election mired in controversies, including vote rigging. Khan, who could not contest the February 8 elections due to his convictions in some cases including that of corruption has been barred from holding any public office for 10 years.

Shehbaz Sharif to be PM

At a joint news conference here late Tuesday night after marathon negotiations, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari announced that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif, 72, will assume the role of the prime minister once again.

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Similarly, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, 68, will be the joint candidate for the president’s office.

Last week, the PML-N, in a surprise move, announced that the party supremo and three-time former premier Nawaz Sharif nominated his younger brother Shehbaz as a candidate for the slot of prime minister. Nawaz, 74, was earlier confident of securing a record fourth term. However, his party failed to win enough seats to form a government on its own.

“The PPP and PML-N have achieved the required number, and (now) we are in a position to form the government,” Bilawal told reporters without revealing the number of lawmakers they have in the National Assembly after the February 8 elections.

To form a government, a party must win 133 out of 265 contested seats in the 266-member National Assembly or the lower house of Parliament.

He said former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party-backed independent candidates and Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) failed to achieve a simple majority in Parliament to form a government in the Centre.

Bilawal hopes for positive impact on market

Bilawal hoped that the news of the political alliance with the PML-N to form a coalition government would lead to a positive market response as the cash-strapped country faced a hung Parliament after the elections.

Independent candidates – a majority backed by 71-year-old Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party — won 93 National Assembly seats.

The PML-N won 75 seats while the PPP came third with 54 seats. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) has 17 seats.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed as a “publicity stunt” a petition seeking new elections over alleged irregularities in the February 8 polls, clearing the way for the formation of the coalition government to end the political uncertainty in the country.

The apex court also imposed a fine on the petitioner, Retired Brigadier Ali Khan, over his failure to appear before the court.

Speaking at the press conference last night, Shehbaz asserted that his party now has the “required numbers” with the PPP to be in a position to form the next government as he thanked the leadership of the two parties for the positive conclusion to the talks.

Shehbaz, who led a coalition government for 16 months before the elections, also said that he had asked the PTI-backed winning candidates to prove their majority and form the government, but they didn’t have sufficient numbers.

‘No demands for ministries from Bilawal’

The PML-N stalwart thanked Bilawal and Zardari for their cooperation. Shehbaz said that both parties decided that Zardari would be fielded as the joint candidate for the post of president.

Responding to a question about whether the PPP was getting any portfolios, Shehbaz said that the Bilawal-led party has not demanded any ministry from the first day, The News International reported.

“Parleys take place between two parties and issues are resolved through (mutual consultation). It doesn’t mean that we accept their demands or they accept ours; they have their views but reaching a middle point is the real political success,” he said.

The former prime minister added that the decisions on the “offices” would be made mutually later under the guidance of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and the PPP’s top leadership, the report said.

Shehbaz also thanked the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party, and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, who will be part of the next government.

He vowed the upcoming coalition government would restore the country’s economy and fight against the menace of terrorism.

The PML-N leader said that the alliance would bring economic progress and development to the country. He said they would take measures to increase agricultural and industrial production in the country.

Shehbaz stressed that the previous unity forged during the 16-month government paved the way for their current collaboration, united in their commitment to addressing the concerns of the Pakistani people.

“We will not disappoint the people of Pakistan,” the president of the PML-N said.

The details were not provided but sources said that PPP was still reluctant to be part of the government as it agreed to have its president, chairman senate, and governors in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and chief minister in Balochistan.

The PML-N would have complete charge of the federal government with the prime minister and speaker. It will also get governors in the Sindh and Balochistan provinces.

The two also agreed to form a coalition government in Balochistan with an equal share in the cabinet.

PTI hits out at coalition partners

Meanwhile, in a post on X, 71-year-old Khan’s party hit out at the newly cemented PPP, PML-N alliance as ‘PDM 2.0’ “PDM 2.0 = #MandateThieves.”

PTI leader Asad Qaiser said that PML-N leader Shehbaz had a “minority stake” in the elections and claimed that the public never gave him the mandate for the premiership.

“The PPP is telling the people that they are not a part of the government […] but you are taking the post of Senate chairman on their [PML-N’s] vote,” he said while talking to reporters outside Adiala Jail.

Qaiser added that he could not understand what “formula” Senator Ishaq Dar had which was missing during his previous terms as the finance minister.

The announcement of the alliance came a day after the latest round of talks between the top leaders of the two parties ended inconclusively on Monday as both sides failed to reach a consensus on a power-sharing formula to form a coalition government.

Shehbaz said that the journey ahead for the new government would not be easy but fraught with many difficulties and obstacles. He asserted that the coalition alliance will tackle them together, the Dawn newspaper reported.

Zardari, who was president from 2008 to 2013, has said the struggle of the political alliance bidding to make the next government is for the sake of the country and future generations.

The February 8 general elections have been controversial, with several serious allegations of widespread rigging to alter the results.

Imran Khan’s sister Aleema Khan said the PTI chief has termed the February 8 elections “mother of all rigging”.

Aleema met Imran Khan at Adiala Jail on Tuesday. She told reporters that the people’s mandate was “stolen” following the elections. She also said that Imran Khan has strongly condemned the suspension of internet services, which he claimed was used to “hide the real results”.

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