Thursday , April 25 2024

PML-N+PPP reach coalition of Zardari President, Shahbaz PM

21-02-2024

By SJA Jafri

ISLAMABAD/ LAHORE/ KARACHI: Two political parties in Pakistan have reached a formal agreement to form a new government following an election mired in controversy.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) will be backed by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in a new administration, they jointly announced.

Both parties won fewer seats than candidates loyal to jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan on 8 February.

On X, Khan’s PTI party branded the coalition “mandate thieves”.

His movement alleges the vote was rigged to keep his supporters out of power.

More than six days after reaching an initial deal to form a coalition, the PMLN and PPP announced a full agreement had been concluded at a press conference on Tuesday.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the PPP, said: “The coalition’s aim is to address the country’s economic crisis.”

Former Prime Minister and President of PMLN Shahbaz Sharif pledged “collective action to tackle economic and other challenges”.

The agreement means Sharif is on course to become prime minister for a second time with the backing of the junior coalition partner, while Asif Ali Zardari of the PPP will be the coalition’s candidate to become president, an office he has previously held.

The process for electing the prime minister involves a parliamentary vote, which is expected by the end of February. A separate election to decide the next president will be held in the coming weeks.

It remains unclear who will take up other major government posts.

The contentious parliamentary election earlier this month failed to produce a conclusive result.

Despite Khan being behind bars and his candidates forced to run as independents rather than under a single banner, candidates backed by his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) emerged as the single largest bloc in a shock result.

However, their 93 seats in the National Assembly fell short of the overall majority of 169 needed to form a government.

That paved the way for the PMLN, which is led by another former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, to go into negotiations with the PPP.

The PMLN won 75 seats, while the PPP came third with 54 but with likely backing from smaller parties and once seats reserved for women and religious minority representatives are apportioned, the coalition partners will have sufficient support in parliament to govern.

Both parties were part of a coalition which dramatically forced Khan from office in 2022. In January 2024, he was jailed for 10 years after being charged with leaking state secrets, which he denies.

The PTI is challenging the outcome in the courts and its supporters have staged protests across the country.

Last week, Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman of the Jamaat-e-Islami party gave up his Karachi seat after alleging local election officials medaled in the process to prevent his PTI opponent from winning.

Social media has been disrupted across the country in recent days amid protests. Internet access monitoring group NetBlocks said access to X formerly Twitter continued to be restricted for many on Tuesday.

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