Lahore: Shehbaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, reiterated on Tuesday that Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), is poised to become the country’s premier for an unprecedented fourth term. Nawaz Sharif, now 74 years old, initially assumed office in 1990 but was forced to step down three years later amid corruption allegations that have haunted his political career.
However, he returned to power for a second tenure in 1997, only to be ousted in 1999 following a military coup led by General Pervez Musharraf, sparked by Sharif’s attempt to sideline the Army chief.
After more than a decade, Sharif reclaimed the Prime Minister’s seat in 2013. However, his tenure was marred by fresh corruption accusations stemming from the revelation in the 2016 Panama Papers leak, implicating his children in ownership of offshore companies. Subsequently, Sharif faced legal repercussions, including conviction on separate corruption charges, which led to his disqualification from holding office for life — marking the third instance where he failed to complete a full term as Prime Minister.
What did Shehbaz Sharif say?
“I still stand by my words that Nawaz Sharif will become Prime Minister for the fourth time,” Dawn News quoted Shehbaz Sharif, the three-time former Prime Minister’s younger brother, as saying at a press conference in Lahore. Talking about the allegation of rigging in the recently concluded February 8 polls, Shehbaz said that in several areas PML-N stalwarts lost and independents won.
“In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the majority is of independent candidates won…Does it mean they won through rigging? And in Sindh and Balochistan, there was no sign of independents. On behalf of my party, independents are free, if they want to make a government, go ahead. We will sit in the opposition and fulfil our role,” Shehbaz said.
Shehbaz said the next phase had begun after the polls and emphasised: “If they call themselves PTI-sponsored or non-PTI-sponsored – if they can form a government then they should. The President will not give them an invitation.”
“If they can show the majority in the Assembly then we will gladly sit in the opposition benches and play the constitutional role. If they cannot make a government, then obviously other political parties will decide with consensus and field a candidate. This is the constitutional way… We need to move forward like this and finalise the upcoming phase,” said the former Prime Minister, who took power after cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan was ousted in a no-trust move in April 2022.
Pakistan’s election result 2024
Independent candidates, mostly backed by Khan’s PTI, won 101 seats in the 266-member National Assembly in the February 8 general elections. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N has won 75 seats and former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto’s PPP has won 54 seats.
The PTI-backed candidates ran as independents due to the party losing the election symbol of ‘bat’ following controversy surrounding its intra-party elections. According to the party, the PTI was cruising with a lead of 170 National Assembly seats before the alleged rigging swung the pendulum in favour of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.
Mood of the nation: Protest across country
People are unhappy about the way the election unfolded and how votes were counted. Legal challenges are underway to contest some results. There are protests and allegations about vote rigging, with Khan’s supporters in particular angry about what they perceive as electoral theft. Police have used tear gas to disperse crowds and arrested dozens of people in sporadic demonstrations that have broken out across Pakistan. The international community and rights groups have expressed concern about voting irregularities.
(With inputs from agencies)