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Pakistan: Bilawal Bhutto's PPP to back PML-N candidate for PM, won't join federal govt

Nawaz's PML-N was the largest party with 75 seats, while Imran Khan's PTI-backed candidates won the highest number of seats overall. Imran has ruled out forming a coalition with PML-N and PPP and will join hands with Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM) to form the government.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Islamabad Published on: February 13, 2024 18:35 IST
Pakistan, Pakistan elections, Bilawal Bhutto
Image Source : AP (FILE) Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari

Pakistan elections: As deliberations over Pakistan's next Prime Minister continue, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Tuesday said he won't put his name for the candidacy of the premier, accepting that his party does not have a mandate to form the government at the Centre. “Due to this, I will not be putting myself forward for the candidacy of the prime minister of Pakistan,” he said during a presser in Islamabad, Dawn reported.

Instead, the PPP has decided to back the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate for the Prime Minister's slot, but will not be a part of the federal government. “The PPP has decided that we are unable or not in a position to join federal government ourselves, nor are we interested in taking ministries in such a setup. We also don’t want to see political chaos in the country. We don’t want to perpetual crisis in the country,” he said.

The PPP has now decided to form a committee with other political parties for the formation of the federal government and to bring political stability to Pakistan. This comes as former PM Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said it will join hands with Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen (MWM) to form the government in the Centre and Punjab.

PTI spokesperson Raoof Hasan said that the former prime minister, while ruling out the prospects of any talks with the PML-N, PPP and MQM-P, has directed the party to form a coalition with Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) over reserved seats, according to Geo News.

Speculation over the next PM grows

Although both Imran and Nawaz Sharif claimed victory in the elections, PTI-backed candidates won the highest number of seats, with 93 out of a total of 264 seats for which results were declared. Nawaz's PML-N was the largest party with 75 seats and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto, was second with 54. 

However, Imran has ruled out forming a coalition with PML-N, PPP and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) after days-long consultations between different parties. A coalition seemed inevitable even as the PML-N has already snared some of the independents as no parties have won the majority.

Meanwhile, PML-N and PPP opened formal talks late on Sunday to form a coalition government, with a statement from PML-N saying the meeting was "constructive" and "both expressed commitment to putting nation's interest and well-being above everything". PML-N and PPP officials, however, said their talks were snagged over which leader would take the top job. 

PTI leader Gohar Ali Khan said Imran wants the party to form its “own government” whether it is in the Centre, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or Punjab and asserted that the party is in a position to form the government "today". He also shared details of 180 National Assembly seats allegedly won by PTI which will be provided soon.

Nawaz Sharif to become PM for fourth time, affirms Shehbaz

PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday affirmed that his elder brother Nawaz will become the Prime Minister for a record fourth time. "I had said that Nawaz Sharif would become prime minister for the fourth time. And I maintain today that he is going to be the PM for the fourth time," he said.

The PML-N source said a deadlock may arise between the PML-N and PPP on two possible fronts -- firstly if the PPP wants the PM slot for Bilawal, and secondly, if they disagree on Nawaz’s name for premier". In case Nawaz is not picked for the premiership then his daughter Maryam Nawaz will be the favourite for the Punjab minister's office.

Political analysts say the next 48 hours will be crucial because if there is a coalition government formed by the PPP and PML-N it will not last for long. The PML-N has already snared some of the independents who won PTI seats but its total tally of 78 seats in the parliament is not enough to form a government, something it can’t do without forming a coalition government.

Analysts say a coalition government will struggle to tackle multiple challenges - the foremost being seeking a new bailout programme from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after the current arrangement expires in three weeks. A coalition government "would probably be unstable, weak" and "the big loser ... will be the army", said Marvin Weinbaum, Director of Afghanistan and Pakistan Studies at the Middle East Institute in Washington.

Elections plagued by rigging elections

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.

A Pakistani court on Tuesday dismissed more than 30 petitions filed by jailed former premier Imran Khan's party backed independent candidates who challenged the "sham victory" of top PML-N leaders. Lahore High Court Justice Ali Baqar Najafi, who heard the maintainability of the petitions, said: "The Supreme Court in another case categorically ruled that the extraordinary jurisdiction of the high court cannot be reduced to an ordinary jurisdiction of the high court as there will be disputed questions of facts which cannot be resolved."

(with inputs from agencies)

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