Rivals of jailed former Pakistan leader Imran Khan agree on coalition government


ISLAMABAD — 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 that did not gain enough seats in the Feb. 8 vote to govern on their own.

Candidates aligned with Khan won the most seats in the parliamentary elections but 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.

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 Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party won the most parliamentary seats but not enough to form a government alone.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party, in Islamabad on Feb. 13.Anjum Naveed / AP

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.

They also said former President Asif Ali Zardari of the PPP will be their joint candidate for president when the new parliament and all four provincial legislatures elect the successor of departing President Arif Ali in the coming weeks.

Earlier 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 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.

The surprisingly strong showing for Khan’s party in the recent elections was 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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