Shehbaz Sharif poised to become next Prime Minister of Pakistan

NEW DELHI: Shehbaz Sharif, the longest-serving Chief Minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province, is poised to become the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. The deck was cleared by the Pakistan Supreme Court on Thursday set aside Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri’s ruling which rejected the no-confidence motion against the Imran Khan government.

The apex court gave directions for holding the sitting of the National Assembly “not later than 10:30 am on April 9” for the no-trust vote. The Supreme Court also said that if Imran Khan is removed as a result of the no-confidence motion, the new leader of the House should be elected in the same session.

“…if the no-confidence motion against the prime minister succeeds, then the Assembly will appoint the new prime minister,” the top court’s order was quoted as saying by Geo News

The opposition appeared to have the numbers for the no-confidence motion with some allies of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) deciding to part ways. Several members of PTI had also turned rebels.

On the day of voting on the no-confidence resolution on April 3, the National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri rejected the no-confidence motion against the government on “constitutional grounds”, after allegations of a “foreign conspiracy” to topple Imran Khan’s government were made by minister Fawad Chaudhary in the House.

In an address to the nation, shortly afterwards, Imran Khan announced that he had recommended President Arif Alvi to dissolve the National Assembly and call for fresh elections.

The Pakistani National Assembly has a total strength of 342 members, with the majority mark being 172. The PTI led coalition was formed with the support of 179 members, with Imran Khan’s PTI having 155 members, and four major allies MQM-P, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) having seven, five, five and three members respectively.

Moreover, Sharif who spearheaded the campaign against Imran Khan in 2021, is set to oust the PTI chief over the skyrocketing inflation, corruption and misgovernance.

He is the leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and also the President of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), one of the key Opposition parties of Pakistan. He became the President after replacing Nawaz Sharif, his brother and ousted Prime Minister of Pakistan, who has been living in London after being convicted in two corruption cases in Pakistan.

Shehbaz Sharif’s name was proposed for Prime Ministership in a joint conference of the Opposition parties held on March 30.

Addressing a press conference, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that Imran Khan “has now lost majority” in the National Assembly and Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif will soon become the Prime Minister of the country.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) joined hands with the Opposition and decided to support them to oust Imran Khan as Prime Minister in the no-confidence vote. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto had favored Shehbaz Sharif, brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, “will soon” become the prime minister of the country.

Earlier, Shehbaz Sharif had tabled the no-confidence motion against Khan’s government in the National Assembly. Sharif is a seasoned politician and holds the record of being the longest-serving Chief Minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province, having served on the post three times.

He became the Chief Minister of Punjab province for the first time in 1997. But, after a 1999 coup by General Pervez Musharraf, he had to leave Pakistan and spent the next eight years in exile in Saudi Arabia.

He again became the Chief Minister of Punjab in 2008. Sharif’s third term as Punjab Chief Minister began in 2013 and he served a full term until the defeat of PML-N in the 2018 elections.

He was nominated the leader of the Opposition after the 2018 elections.

Meanwhile, Shehbaz Sharif also faces corruption charges. In December 2019, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) froze 23 properties belonging to Shehbaz Sharif and his son, Hamza, accusing them of money laundering.

He was arrested by NAB in the same case in September 2020 and incarcerated pending trial. In April 2021, the Lahore High Court released him on bail in a money laundering case.