After parliamentary elections: Sharif faces a difficult task as Prime Minister of Pakistan

After parliamentary elections: Sharif faces a difficult task as Prime Minister of Pakistan

In Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif, a representative of a political dynasty, is once again taking over the leadership of the state. The new prime minister must overcome a deep gap between politics and the people.

Pakistan’s parliament has elected former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as the new head of government. “Shehbaz Sharif is the declared Prime Minister of Pakistan,” National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq said on television. Sharif defeated his rival Omar Ayoub Khan, who was supported by the imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his opposition party PTI, with 201 votes to 92. Sharif’s party, the Muslim League PML-N, leads a coalition with the People’s Party PPP around former Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and several small parties.

The inauguration of the 72-year-old, who had already held the office between April 2022 and August 2023, is another surprise since the country’s turbulent parliamentary elections on February 8th. In the election, which was overshadowed by allegations of manipulation and internet blocks, his older brother Nawaz Sharif was the top candidate for the Muslim League PML-N. However, he rejected the office after the PML-N failed to gain a majority in the parliamentary elections and cannot govern without a coalition partner.

With the younger Sharif brother taking office, a representative of Pakistan’s political dynasties will once again be at the helm of the nuclear power. In the almost 77-year history of the South Asian country, the two families of the Sharifs and the Bhuttos have mostly taken turns from the PPP – unless they were removed from power by the military.

An exception is former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was dismissed from office early in April 2022. His opposition party PTI was not allowed to run in the last parliamentary elections. However, independent candidates, mostly with ties to the PTI, surprisingly emerged as the strongest force among the various camps, posing a difficult government formation challenge for Pakistan.

Voters disillusioned

Many challenges await the future head of government: Pakistan is suffering from terrorist attacks and increasingly from the consequences of climate change. The country is also in a severe economic crisis, with inflation at almost 30 percent.

Above all, Sharif must overcome a deep divide between politicians and voters in the country of more than 240 million people. His recent journey to Pakistan’s highest political office was marred by allegations that the election was rigged in favor of the established parties. The reason was massive delays in counting the votes. Observers also criticized the judiciary’s harsh crackdown on the opposition and the shutdown of mobile internet on election day, which the authorities justified with the precarious security situation in the country.

The government and military deny interfering in the election. However, almost a month after the election, many voters are still disillusioned. “We are disappointed because our votes didn’t count,” says trader Faizal Dad Khan in the megacity of Peshawar, which is considered a PTI stronghold. “My confidence is completely shattered.”

Military remains influential

People around him are also frustrated, says Faizal Dad Khan. Here, in the region near the Afghan border, residents are concerned not only with the difficult economic situation but also with the threat from militant Islamist groups. There were fewer attacks under Imran Khan and he also paid more attention to the needs of ordinary people, says the trader at a bazaar in the city’s suburbs.

Student Aqsa hopes for better educational opportunities in her country. However, she doesn’t have much hope for the new government. She complains that the elections were not honest. PTI supporters took to the streets in several major cities across the country on Saturday to demonstrate against the parliamentary election results.

However, how long Sharif remains at the head of state will ultimately be determined in the coming years by his relationship with the country’s powerful generals. So far, no prime minister in the history of Pakistan has been able to complete his term in office. The military is considered crucial for the fall and rise of politicians. A close confidant of Sharif believes that his older brother will be pulling the strings in the background anyway. “Nawaz Sharif is the one who will be in charge.”

Source: Stern

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