Supreme Court upholds opposition’s petition . . .
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, the iconic cricket star turned politician, lost a no-confidence vote in parliament on Sunday, a first in the tumultuous history of Pakistani politics. Last Thursday, the Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld the opposition’s petition questioning the constitutionality of Khan’s actions, which included dismissing the previous attempt at a no-confidence vote against him, dissolving parliament, and calling for a snap election. Amidst a walkout by 100 MPs from Khan’s party, 174 lawmakers in the 342-seat assembly voted for opposition coalition leader Shehbaz Sharif to become the 23rd Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Enter Shehbaz Sharif . . .
Shehbaz Sharif is president of the political party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, served three times as the chief minister of Punjab, one of the largest provinces in Pakistan, and co-owns the family business Ittefaq Group, a multi-million-dollar steel conglomerate. But Shehbaz’s profile is also marked by his older brother’s legacy, the three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who the Supreme Court unseated in 2015 following the Panama Papers and corruption charges. However, unlike Nawaz, Shehbaz is known for being efficient, hard-working, cordial, and “can-do” in his administrative style. During his tenure as the Punjab Chief Minister, he made significant infrastructure improvements but also faced money laundering charges in 2020 that were deferred until late April. The Sharif family traces its roots back to Kashmir in pre-partition India, a topic likely to remain central to Shehbaz’s foreign policy agenda with India.
Challenges and worries . . .
Shehbaz Sharif faces a range of challenges, including an economic and energy crisis and crumbling foreign relations. And his government is a very loose coalition that ranges from the left to the radically religious, all united in their support of dynastic politics and dissatisfaction with Khan’s government. Meanwhile, Khan is rallying support to overthrow what he calls an “imported government.” His anti-corruption, anti-dynastic, and anti-American rhetoric, coupled with his ultra-conservative stance, is particularly popular among Pakistani youth, which forms the majority of the population, a worrying factor for the new government. Meanwhile, as Shehbaz mentioned in his first speech, he hopes to revive the economy and repair bridges with allies, including the U.S. and India, while maintaining good relations with old allies such as China. Shehbaz’s new government will remain in place until the next scheduled elections in August 2023.
- Al Jazeera: Who is Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistan’s new prime minister?
- Associated Press: EXPLAINER: What’s ahead for politically volatile Pakistan?
- Hindustan Times: In first speech, new Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif offers olive branch to India