The Pakistan National Assembly is all set to elect the 23rd prime minister of the country on Monday after the top slot fell vacant as Imran Khan was ousted from power through a no-confidence motion in the parliament on early Sunday morning. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Shehbaz Sharif is likely to be elected the new prime minister, although Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) vice-chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also filed his nomination papers for the post on Sunday.
The National Assembly session, which was earlier supposed to begin at 11am (local time), will convene at 2pm.
The National Assembly Secretariat issued the order of the day for Monday, according to which election of the prime minister, under Article 91 of the Constitution, read with Rule 32 of Rules of Business and Conduct of Business in the assembly, is the only item to be taken up by the House.
Sharif, who had nominated himself for the post of the premier on Sunday, is the younger brother of disgraced three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif and led a rainbow opposition alliance of socialist, liberal and radically religious parties that ousted Khan.
According to political analysts, Sharif is a seasoned politician in his own right having served for years as chief minister of Punjab province, the Sharif family’s power base, and also president of the PML-N.
He, however, has also been linked to graft and corruption — charges supporters say sprang from a political vendetta by Khan.
There was a heated exchange between Qureshi and senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal during the filing of papers as PTI leaders raised objections to Sharif’s candidature.
In 2019, the National Accountability Bureau had arrested Sharif and his son, Hamza Sharif, accusing them of money laundering.
The Opposition had mustered 174 votes to oust Khan. If they can repeat it on Monday, Sharif will be the next prime minister of Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet division on Sunday de-notified 52 members of the federal Cabinet after the historic vote of no-confidence by the joint Opposition.
PTI divided on resignations
Meanwhile, the PTI is mulling withdrawing its lawmakers from the National Assembly and launching a movement against the new upcoming government. Khan chaired a meeting of the core committee of his party.
“The core committee has recommended to Imran Khan that we should resign from the assemblies. We are starting from the National Assembly. If our objections against Shehbaz Sharif’s nomination papers are not (entertained), we will submit the resignations tomorrow,” PTI leader and former minister Fawad Chaudhry told reporters after the party held a core committee meeting at the residence of Khan.
Meanwhile, Pakistani news channel Dawn, citing insiders, reported that PTI leaders were divided on the issue as some of them believed all lawmakers of the party and allies should resign immediately to bring the upcoming government, while others were of the opinion that the PTI and its allies should take opposition benches to resist any attempt to change elections laws, particularly regarding the use of electronic voting machines and voting rights to overseas Pakistanis, for the next general elections.
As the PTI core committee remained indecisive whether to go for en masse resignations of its lawmakers or not, the party chairman called the parliamentary party meeting at the Parliament House at 12 noon on Monday to make a final decision.
Whether Qureshi will contest the election for the premiership or will resign along with other MNAs of the PTI and its allies depends on the outcome of the PTI parliamentary meeting.
In the house of 342, the winner would need 172 votes to become the new prime minister.
Large protest rally
A large number of PTI supporters held a protest rally at Lahore’s Liberty Chowk against the ouster of Khan. Big gatherings were also reported from other parts of the Punjab province, including Faisalabad, Multan, Gujranwala, Vehari, Jhelum and Gujrat districts. Islamabad and Karachi also witnessed major gatherings of PTI supporters.
Protests broke out in different cities after 9 pm on Sunday and continued for several hours on Khan’s call.
In the UK, PTI and PML-N supporters confronted each other during a rowdy demonstration outside Avenfield apartments, the residence of the Sharif family in London.
Khan in his first comments since his ouster tweeted: “Pakistan became an independent state in 1947; but the freedom struggle begins again today against a foreign conspiracy of regime change. It is always the people of the country who defend their sovereignty & democracy.”