Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif vows new era as Imran Khan allies set to fight on

Supporters of former PM Imran Khan blame a foreign instigated plot for 'regime change'

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Pakistan's new prime minister has congratulated the country on a “peaceful transition of power” as he was expected to finalise his cabinet to replace Imran Khan's government.

Shehbaz Sharif said his priority was tackling the country's painful double-digit inflation and said Pakistan also wanted peaceful ties with its neighbours.

The 70-year-old was sworn into power on Monday evening after Imran Khan was removed by a weekend opposition no-confidence vote he had spent days trying to dodge.

“I want to congratulate the people of Pakistan on peaceful transition of power,” Mr Sharif said.

“If the stock market and strengthening currency is any indication, the journey towards our goals has already started,” he said, referring to currency and share gains on Monday as the political drama subsided.

“Our focus is on providing as much relief as possible to all Pakistanis by tackling high inflation and kick-starting the stagnant economy.”

Mr Sharif's own Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) is expected to take the majority of cabinet posts, with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of the Pakistan Peoples Party tipped as possible foreign minister.

The new prime minister's three terms as chief minister in Punjab province have given him a reputation for competence, analysts say.

He also has a reputation for good ties with Pakistan's military, who have in the past used their clout to undermine political enemies or bolster favourites. Many analysts believe Mr Sharif's older brother, three-times former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, was turfed out of power after the generals turned on him.

“He [Sharif] is known to have excellent relations with the military and there was talk that these relations could never fully develop because his brother, his senior, had taken a hard line against the military and ruled out any of the normal compromises that anyone who is in Pakistani politics will tell you are necessary,” said Farzana Shaikh, an analyst at the UK’s the Chatham House think tank.

“Like everyone, lessons have been learned, and we are likely to see a much more pragmatic and less ideologically flavoured government, than what we saw under Imran Khan.”

Mr Khan has made it clear he will not retreat into opposition quietly and has called for early elections. Members of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party are likely to hold a campaign of protests to put pressure on the new government.

Opposition leaders continued to denounce the new government as thieves placed in power by a foreign conspiracy.

Shireen Mazari, the former human rights minister, blamed America, saying the US had “instigated successful regime change with their invisible abettors and white-wigged facilitators”.

The new government received a measured welcome from its arch rival and neighbour, India.

“Congratulations to his excellency Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif on his election as the Prime Minister of Pakistan,” said Narendra Modi, India's prime minister.

“India desires peace and stability in a region free of terror, so that we can focus on our development challenges and ensure the well-being and prosperity of our people.”

Updated: April 12, 2022, 12:51 PM
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