Pakistan lawmakers are set to choose opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif as the next prime minister after former cricket star Imran Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote that ended his four-year run.
The joint opposition in Pakistan, a rainbow of socialist, liberal and radically religious parties has nominated Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif for the post of prime minister.
The 70 years old Shehbaz Sharif is the younger brother of former three-time premier Nawaz Sharif.
The nomination came after the unceremonious ouster of Imran Khan, who has called on his supporters to join him in the street in protest against what he called the "imported government."
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chair Asif Ali Zardari had proposed Shehbaz's name for the prime minister’s post in a joint opposition meeting. Zardari's son Bilawal Bhutto is likely to be appointed as the new foreign minister.
Before filing his nomination, Shehbaz offered "special thanks" to those who stood up "for the Constitution!"
"I don't want to go back to the bitterness of the past. We want to forget and move forward. We will not avenge the wrongs or mete out injustice; we will not send people to jail for no reason; law and justice will take its course," he said while addressing the National Assembly early Sunday.
A united opposition bloc cobbled together 174 lawmakers to vote against Khan after midnight Sunday in Islamabad, two more than required to remove him from office. Parliament convenes again on Monday to pick his replacement, after Khan rallied supporters in cities across the nation on Sunday night against what he called “U.S.-backed regime change."
Khan’s ouster came after a fallout with Pakistan’s army over a range of issues, including interference in military promotions, his rocky relationship with the U.S. and management of the economy that saw inflation rise at the second fastest pace in Asia. Pakistan’s military has ruled the country for almost half of its 75-year history, and no prime minister has completed a full term in that time.
The political shakeup in the world’s fifth-most populous nation is likely to immediately rebalance Pakistan’s foreign policy more toward the U.S. and Europe. Khan had shifted Pakistan closer to Russia and China, and sought to sabotage the no-confidence vote by claiming the Biden administration conspired with the opposition to remove him from power.
Ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan, still full of bravado, meanwhile, reiterated his 'foreign conspiracy' claim and said the "freedom struggle begins today".
"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," Khan tweeted.
Shehbaz over the years has earned the reputation of a matter-of-fact person who makes no bones while performing onerous tasks. His realism is often rancorous for friends and foes alike. When a Geo News TV anchor asked him a few days ago about terms of ties with the US under his leadership, Shehbaz responded: "Beggars cannot be choosers” – a remark that was instantly juxtaposed by detractors with Khan's "honour in foreign policy" paradigm.
Samiullah Khan, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker and close aid of Shehbaz, told PTI that his leader would chalk out a new policy.
"Pakistan under Shehbaz will come up with a new policy towards India. Basically, the Imran Khan regime had a weak policy, which allowed India to revoke the special status of Kashmir," said Samiullah.