Pakistan's Parliament elects Shehbaz Sharif for second term as Prime Minister

MPs allied to former PM Imran Khan disrupt proceedings with protests over alleged rigging of general election

Shehbaz Sharif, right, is congratulated by his brother Nawaz Sharif after being elected Pakistan's Prime Minister in the National Assembly on Sunday. EPA
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Pakistan’s newly elected Parliament endorsed Shehbaz Sharif as the country's Prime Minister on Sunday as members allied to jailed former premier Imran Khan shouted in protest over alleged rigging in last month’s general election.

National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq said Mr Sharif secured 201 votes, defeating Omar Ayub of the Sunni Ittehad Council who got 92 votes. The winner needs only 169 votes for a majority.

Mr Ayub had the backing of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI. Candidates allied to Khan, whose party was effectively barred from participating in the February 8 election, collectively won more seats than any of the parties but not enough to form a government on their own. The PTI refused to hold talks with its rivals to form a coalition.

Mr Sharif, whose Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) emerged with the most seats, called on members of rival parties to work with his government in his acceptance speech.

“I am offering you reconciliation. Let us sit together to work for the betterment of Pakistan,” he said after MPs loyal to Khan stood in front of the podium shouting “vote thief” and “shame”.

Mr Sharif is the younger brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who went into exile after being convicted of corruption during Khan's premiership. He became prime minister in April 2022 after the PML-N allied with other opposition parties to remove Khan in a no-confidence vote. He handed over charge to a caretaker government installed in August last year in preparation for the general election.

His return to the post is part of a coalition agreement with the Pakistan People's Party headed by former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and his father, Asif Ali Zardari. Mr Zardari, a former president, will be nominated for the post again under the agreement.

The Parliament Speaker has called for a joint sitting of the upper and lower houses on March 9 to select the country’s president, according to a statement. MPs and four provincial assemblies elect the president for five years..

Mr Sharif said his biggest challenge was the economic situation, as Pakistan has been relying on foreign loans to run the economy. Other issues facing his government include a surge in militant attacks, how to improve relations with the neighbouring, Taliban-run Afghanistan, repairing crumbling infrastructure and resolving extensive power cuts. It must also maintain political stability as Khan’s party has vowed to continue protests against the alleged vote-rigging.

Mr Sharif helped Pakistan avoid a default last year by securing a $3 billion IMF loan programme. He took unpopular steps, including removing fuel subsidies and raising energy prices, to meet the IMF’s conditions.

He has said he will seek a new IMF bailout when the current one expires at the end of the month.

With reporting from agencies.

Updated: March 06, 2024, 11:30 AM