Shehbaz Sheriff submits PM nomination to Pakistani parliament

ISLAMABAD, April 10 (Reuters) – Opposition politician Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday presented his nomination for Pakistan’s next prime minister to the Legislative Assembly, his party said after incumbent Imran Khan lost a no-confidence vote in parliament after nearly four years in power.

The younger brother of three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz, 70, has led an attempt by the opposition in parliament to overthrow former cricket star Khan, and he is generally expected to replace him after a vote on Monday.

But Khan’s party also submitted papers nominating the former foreign minister as a candidate for prime minister, saying their MPs would withdraw en masse if he loses, potentially creating a need for an urgent by-election for their seats.

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Khan, the first Pakistani prime minister to be ousted by a no-confidence vote, had been holding out for almost a week after a united opposition first tried to remove him.

On Sunday, he reiterated allegations that a foreign conspiracy was behind the regime change.

“The freedom struggle begins again today,” he said via his Twitter account, followed by more than 15 million, and it still describes him as Pakistan’s prime minister in his biography section.

Even before the vote, Khan had called for protests, which were expected to take place late on Sunday.

“I tell all my supporters all over Pakistan, on Sunday, after Isha (evening) prayers, that you should all come out of your homes and protest peacefully against this imported government that is trying to come to power,” he said in a speech to the nation on Friday.

His government fell in the early hours of Sunday after a 13-hour session that included repeated delays and lengthy speeches by lawmakers from his Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

The opposition parties were able to secure 174 votes in Parliament with 342 members for the no-confidence motion, giving them the majority they needed to enable Monday’s vote to elect a new prime minister.

Khan’s former information minister Fawad Chaudhry told reporters about the resignation plan if their candidate does not win.

The speaker would be obliged to accept the redundancies that would necessitate by-elections for probably more than 100 seats.

It could throw the country into yet another crisis, as the Electoral Commission has previously said it would not be ready to hold elections until October.

THE ROLE OF THE MILITARY?

Two sources who declined to be identified said the vote that ousted Khan started after the powerful army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, met with Khan as criticism rose over the delay in the parliamentary process. The Supreme Court has also ordered Parliament to convene and hold the vote.

The military has ruled the country with 220 million people in almost half of its nearly 75-year history.

It looked positive on Khan and his conservative agenda when he won the 2018 election, but that support waned after an altercation over the appointment of the influential military intelligence chief and economic problems that led to the biggest rate hike in decades this week. Read more

Khan had antagonized the United States throughout his tenure, welcoming the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan last year and recently accusing the United States of being behind the attempt to oust him. Washington denied the allegations.

Shehbaz Sharif said Khan’s departure was a chance for a fresh start.

“A new dawn has begun … This alliance will rebuild Pakistan,” he told parliament on Sunday.

Sharif was for years the prime minister of Punjab province and has a reputation as an effective administrator. Read more

His first tasks would be to repair relations with the powerful military as well as ally the United States and tend to a faltering economy.

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Reporting by Asif Shahzad, Syed Reza Hassan and Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam in Islamabad, Author by Alasdair Pal and Charlotte Greenfield, Editing by Robert Birsel, Angus MacSwan and Barbara Lewis

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