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Pakistan's old guard parties close to agreement to thwart Imran Khan

Pakistan's old guard parties close to agreement to thwart Imran Khan


Pakistan's two main political parties controlled by the family are moving closer to forming a coalition government that would thwart Imran Khan's group, even after the jailed former cricket star's candidates won the most seats in the country's controversial elections.

The parties of the Sharif and Bhutto clans “agreed in principle to save the country from political instability”, according to a statement published last night on X by the president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Shehbaz Sharif.

The scenario would be a tightening of the ranks of Pakistan's old guard after Khan loyalists – running as independents – defied all odds with a strong showing in Thursday's election, demonstrating enduring public support for Khan and disillusionment with to the status quo. It could also lead to more protests and unrest across the country. Sharif's PML-N and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's Pakistan People's Party have held meetings over the past two days as they seek to form a coalition after elections resulted in another hung parliament.

Bhutto Zardari's party said it would consider the PML-N's proposal at a meeting of its leadership on Monday evening. Sharif “sought help” from Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, to form a government, the PPP said in a statement published on X.

Neither side has disclosed details of the proposal, instead releasing videos of members of both families kissing and holding talks at Bhutto Zardari's sprawling residence in Lahore. A coalition of the two political clans could increase tensions after an already contentious election, which saw Khan candidates, forced to run as independents, shock observers by winning the most seats but falling short of a majority. Any delay in forming a government would weigh on an economy already strained on several fronts. Inflation is running at 28%, the fastest pace in Asia, and the International Monetary Fund's latest bailout program will expire in March, suggesting the next leader will have to negotiate a new deal.

“Irregularities and delay in election results could trigger a legal battle and this situation may also undermine the short-term economic outlook,” said Adnan Khan, head of international sales at Intermarket Securities.

Pakistan stocks closed 3.1% lower, at their lowest level in about seven weeks, amid political uncertainty. Dollar bonds maturing in April saw their biggest decline since July 2022 before paring losses.

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