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Pakistan’s ex-premier Khan’s rivals name Shehbaz Sharif candidate prime minister

The political rivals of Pakistan’s imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan announced details of a power-sharing agreement late Tuesday, naming Shehbaz Sharif as their joint candidate for prime minister.

The much-awaited announcement followed days of talks among the leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League, or PML, the Pakistan People’s Party, or PPP, and other parties who did not gain enough seats in the Feb. 8 vote to govern on their own.

IMPRISONED FORMER PAKISTANI PREMIER KHAN APPEALS 3 RECENT CONVICTIONS

Candidates aligned with Khan won the most seats in the parliamentary elections but also did not win enough of them to form a government.

Sharif, the brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is himself a former prime minister, who replaced Khan when he was ousted through a no-confidence vote in parliament in 2022. Since then, Khan has been convicted of several offenses in what his supporters call politically motivated moves to keep him out of office.

Khan’s rivals said at a late-night news conference of party leaders that they had secured the required majority of votes to form a coalition government. The parliament will elect Shehbaz Sharif of the PML as the new prime minister when the inaugural session of the National Assembly is convened later this month, the party leaders said.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari

Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari, center bottom, Chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party speaks as party aids watch during a press conference regarding parliamentary elections, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. The main political rival of ex-Pakistani premier Imran Khan challenged him Tuesday to form a government if he had the support of the majority of newly elected lawmakers. The challenge by Shehbaz Sharif, who heads the Pakistan Muslim League party, follows national elections that showed candidates backed by Khans Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party won the most parliamentary seats but not enough to form a government alone. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

The also said the country’s former President Asif Ali Zardari of the PPP will be the joint candidate for the office of the president when the new parliament and all the four provincial legislatures elect the successor of the outgoing President Arif Ali in the coming weeks.

Hours earlier on Tuesday, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party asked for the resignation of the head of Pakistan’s Election Commission, Sikandar Sultan Raja, for allegedly failing to conduct the elections in a free and fair manner. Khan’s party claims the victories of dozens of its candidates were converted into defeat, a charge the elections oversight body denies.

Though Khan’s candidates won 93 out of 265 National Assembly seats in the elections, it was not enough to form a government. Sharif’s PML and Zardari’s PPP won 75 and 54 seats respectively.

Khan is currently serving multiple prison terms after being sentenced to a total of 31 years in prison on charges of corruption, revealing official secrets and marriage law violations in late January and early February during trials at a prison in Rawalpindi.

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The surprisingly strong showing for Khan’s party in the recent elections were a shock for former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who had earlier been marked out as the powerful security establishment’s preferred candidate. Shehbaz Sharif, his younger brother, thanked his allies for agreeing to choose him as their joint candidate for prime minister.

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