Pakistani parliament votes for Shehbaz Sharif as prime minister after Imran Khan’s ousting

Pakistan’s parliament on Monday elected Shehbaz Sharif prime minister after a week-long constitutional crisis that culminated on Sunday when his predecessor Imran Khan lost a vote of no confidence.

Shehbaz, 70, who has a national reputation more as an efficient administrator than a politician, is the younger brother of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Analysts say Shehbaz, unlike Nawaz, enjoys friendly relations with Pakistan’s military, which traditionally controls foreign and defense policy in the country of 220 million people.

The young Sharif became the leader of a united opposition to overthrow Khan, a former cricketer star who claimed the United States was behind his downfall, which Washington has denied.

Nawaz Sharif was banned by the Supreme Court in 2017 from holding public office and later traveled abroad for medical treatment after serving just a few months of a 10-year prison sentence for corruption charges.

Khan’s party is going away

Minutes before the vote, lawmakers from Khan’s party resigned en masse from the lower house of parliament in protest at the expected formation of a government by his political opponents.

“We are announcing that we are all stepping down,” Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a former foreign minister and deputy chairman of Khan’s party, said in a speech to the assembly.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party had submitted documents nominating Qureshi as a candidate for prime minister.

The mass resignations will require new by-elections in more than 100 seats.

Pakistan’s deposed Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during an interview with Reuters in Islamabad in 2021. (Saiyna Bashir/Reuters)

“There can be no greater insult to this country,” Khan told reporters on Monday ahead of Sharif’s election.

No elected prime minister has completed a full term in Pakistan since it gained independence from British colonial power in 1947, although Khan was the first to be removed by a vote of no confidence.

The military has ruled the country for nearly half of its nearly 75-year history. He viewed Khan and his conservative agenda favorably when he won the election in 2018.

But that support has dwindled after a falling out over the appointment of the military intelligence chief and economic turmoil led to the biggest interest rate hike in decades last week.

Khan remained defiant after his defeat in parliament. Thousands of his supporters in several cities staged protests against his ouster that continued into the early hours of Monday.