Shahbaz Sharif: Pakistan elects Imran Khan’s successor after his party stages walkout

Pakistan’s parliament has elected opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif as the successor to ousted prime minister Imran Khan, after the former cricket star was removed from power through a no-confidence vote.

Mr Sharif, 70, of the Pakistan Muslim League was elected unopposed after Mr Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party staged a walkout of the assembly and boycotted the vote among MPs.

“Shehbaz Sharif is declared to be elected as the prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” presiding speaker Ayaz Sadiq announced after the delayed vote on Monday afternoon.

Mr Sharif, who was the leader of an opposition coalition and played a key role in ousting Mr Khan, was due to face PTI’s contender Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a close ally to the ousted prime minister, before his nomination was withdrawn.

Mr Sharif is the younger brother of the three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was banned by the Supreme Court in 2017 from holding public office and served a few months of a 10-year jail sentence for corruption charges before leaving for medical treatment abroad.

Mr Sharif is expected to take the oath of office later in the evening, at 8.30pm local time.

More than 100 MPs from Mr Khan’s party walked out of the National Assembly and collectively resigned from parliament on Monday ahead of the vote to elect a new prime minister.

The move that could potentially create the need for urgent mass by-elections for their seats came after Mr Khan chaired a cabinet meeting on Monday.

“PTI Parliamentary Committee has decided to resign from the National Assembly. We will fight for freedom,” PTI’s Fawad Chaudhry said.

The South Asian nation was plunged into political turmoil after Mr Khan’s ruling coalition split, and a newly-formed joint opposition tabled a no-confidence motion.

Mr Khan attempted to cling to power till the very last moment by using a number of tactics, from delaying the vote in the assembly to dissolving parliament and calling for snap elections, an attempt which was declared a violation of the constitution by the Supreme Court on Saturday.

Mr Khan becomes the first prime minister of the country to be removed by a no-confidence vote and the latest to have a five-year term end prematurely in a country that has a history of having no elected premier completing their full term since independence from Britain.

In the aftermath of his removal from power, tens of thousands of supporters of Mr Khan marched in cities across the country to demonstrate against his deposition.

The protesters wave large flags of Mr Khan’s PTI party and shouted slogans in most major cities of Pakistan, including Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Multan.

“Never have such crowds come out so spontaneously and in such numbers in our history, rejecting the imported government led by crooks,” Mr Khan said in a tweet, thanking the supporters.

In his first comments since he was voted out of power, Mr Khan said the day marked the beginning of “freedom struggle” against what he called a “foreign conspiracy of regime change”.

He has claimed, without evidence, that the opposition coalition has colluded with the US to top his government because of his foreign policy stance on matters relating to Afghanistan, Russia and China. Washington has denied the allegations.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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