ISLAMABAD   -  Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan is set to have a smooth sailing in the prime minister’s election today (Friday) after the Pakistan People’s Party withdrew its support for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz President Shehbaz Sharif.

The younger Sharif was expected to give some fight to the cricketer-turned politician with the backing of the joint opposition, but the PPP announced to stay away from the election.

Earlier in the day, Imran Khan and Shehbaz Sharif filed nomination papers in the National Assembly Secretariat and both the nominations were accepted. Sheikh Rashid Ahmed proposed the PTI chairman’s name which was seconded by Fakhar Imam. Shehbaz Sharif’s nomination papers were submitted by Khawaja Muhammad Asif and Ahsan Iqbal.

Under a so-called understanding among the opposition parties, PML-N, PPP and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, were to name the candidates for PM, the National Assembly speaker and deputy speaker in accordance with their strength in the lower house of the parliament.

Khurshid Shah was named for the post of the National Assembly speaker by the PPP and he lost to PTI’s Asad Qaiser, but secured the PML-N votes, taking his tally to 146 against Qaiser’s 176 on August 15. Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal’s Asad Mehmood also lost his bid for the deputy speaker’s slot and could get 143 votes. PTI’s Qasim Khan Suri won this contest with 183 votes.

The PML-N nominated Shehbaz Sharif as its parliamentary leader and candidate for the office of prime minister against Imran Khan, but his nomination was not welcomed by the PPP which pressed the PML-N to change its nominee.

As the PML-N stuck to its decision of retaining Shehbaz Sharif for the PM election, the PPP announced to withdraw its support, leaving Sharif well behind Imran Khan who expects more than 180 votes in the 342-member house.

If the PPP does not vote for any candidate, it will be the first time in the history that it has abstained in the PM’s election while being part of the parliament.

PPP Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari jointly chaired a meeting yesterday to discuss the PM’s election.

Sources said the PPP decided to attend the NA session today (August 17), however, it will refrain from participating in the election process. The PPP will neither vote for Shehbaz Sharif nor for Imran Khan, said a senior PPP leader.

Khrushid Shah told journalists that the PPP will not vote for Shehbaz Sharif. “We had informed PML-N of our reservations. If they don’t change their candidate, we will take our own decision,” he said.

PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique claimed the PPP had agreed to the PML-N candidate’s name. “We don’t blame Asif Ali Zardari for anything and are aware of his compulsions,” he quipped.

With the loss of PPP’s 54 seats, Shehbaz Sharif will now face an almost impossible task to be elected as the prime minister. The PML-N has 81 seats in the National Assembly and it is unclear if the party will be supported by MMA’s 15 MNAs and Awami National Party’s one member. Jamaat-e-Islami which is part of MMA has announced that it will not participate in the election.

Imran Khan’s PTI has 151 seats and enjoys the support of 24 votes of its allies. And the total strength of 175 is more than the required simple majority.

According to the NA’s code of conduct, in the house of 342 members, a simple majority of 172 is necessary for a lawmaker to be elected as prime minister. In case simple majority of 172 members is not met, the election is carried out on the basis of majority members in the house.

After the PPP decision was made public, Senator Maula Bux Chandio clarified that there was no ‘compulsion’ of Asif Ali Zardari to stay away from the PM’s election. “We had asked the PML-N to change their candidate. Shehbaz Sharif is himself the biggest enemy of the PML-N. He has tortured our workers in the past. The PPP has sacrificed lives for democracy while the PML-N leaders flew out of the country during hard times,” he contended.

Meanwhile, late at night, Zardari also met MMA Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to discuss the PM’s election.

 

 

Imran set to become PM today

 

SHAFQAT ALI AND JAVAID-UR-RAHMAN