Shehbaz Sharif is Pakistan’s new premier

Lawmakers in the National Assembly elected Shehbaz Sharif as the country’s new prime minister for the second time as allies of imprisoned former premier Imran Khan in parliament shouted in protest against his appointment, alleging rigging in last month’s election.

Speaker Ayaz Sadiq said Sharif secured 201 votes, defeating Omar Ayub of the Sunni Ittehad Council who got 92 votes. The winner only needs 169 votes to get majority.

Ayub enjoyed the backing of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI, whose candidates could not get enough seats to form a government on their own.

The PTI refused to hold talks with its rivals to form a coalition.

Following days of negotiations, Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League party and his supporters formed an alliance after the Feb 8 election whose results were announced after an unusual delay because of a nationwide mobile phone outage. Authorities said the cutting of communications was necessary to avoid militant attacks on candidates and security forces.

However, the delay drew criticism from Khan’s party, which insists the vote was rigged to stop it from getting a majority.

Sharif, in his acceptance speech in parliament, said: “We were subjected to political victimization in the past but never took any revenge.”

Sharif also said his biggest challenge was the economic situation for Pakistan has been relying on foreign loans to run the economy.

Sharif’s government faces multiple issues, including how to respond to a surge in militant attacks, fix the ailing economy, improve relations with the neighbouring, Taliban-run Afghanistan, repair crumbling infrastructure, and resolve year-round power outages.

It must also maintain political stability as Khan’s party has vowed to continue protests against the alleged vote-rigging. — AP

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