Pakistan’s former premier Sharif and allies agree to form a coalition

Late on Tuesday, the political party of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, along with its allies, announced their intention to form a coalition government. This decision followed a period of uncertainty after no single party secured a simple majority in the recent parliamentary elections. The announcement came after a meeting in Islamabad involving parties that are rivals of imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Participants in the meeting included the Pakistan People’s Party of former President Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League. Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother, attended the meeting and replaced Imran Khan after his ousting through a no-confidence vote in Parliament in 2022.

During a news conference with Zardari and other politicians, Shehbaz Sharif did not specify the joint choice for prime minister, but it is widely assumed that Sharif will lead the new government. Sharif stated briefly that the coalition talks were successful, and Zardari confirmed the decision to form a joint government.

Marriyum Aurangzeb, a spokesperson for the Pakistan Muslim League, revealed that the elder Sharif, a three-time prime minister, had nominated his younger brother for the prime minister role. The Pakistan Muslim League had been in discussions with Zardari and other allies following the parliamentary elections, where no party secured a simple majority.

Despite candidates supported by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party winning 93 out of 265 National Assembly seats, it was insufficient to form a government. Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League and Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party won 75 and 54 seats, respectively.

The strong showing for Khan’s party surprised many, particularly Nawaz Sharif, who was considered the preferred candidate of the powerful security establishment. Pakistan’s military has historically positioned itself as the ultimate decision-maker in selecting the prime minister. The move by Khan’s rivals came after his party, PTI, declined talks, following Thursday’s election.

Imran Khan, currently serving multiple prison terms, was disqualified from contesting the vote. Members of Khan’s party had to run as independent candidates due to the Election Commission and Supreme Court stripping the party of its electoral symbol and imposing other legal barriers. Khan’s party alleges that last Thursday’s vote was rigged, a claim denied by election officials.

According to the constitution, Pakistani President Arif Alvi will convene the inaugural National Assembly session before Feb. 29 for lawmakers to be sworn in, and Parliament will subsequently elect the new prime minister.