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Pakistan's old guard parties to form coalition government, thwarting Imran Khan

Pakistan's old guard parties to form coalition government, thwarting Imran Khan

 


Pakistan's two old-guard political parties have agreed to form a government, a move that breaks a nearly two-week impasse and likely keeps jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan's party out of government even as it won the most seats in the country's controversial elections.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardaris Pakistan People's Party will join a coalition with Sharif Clans Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Bhutto Zardari said at a joint press conference in Islamabad around midnight on Tuesday. Shehbaz Sharif will be prime minister while Bhutto Zardari's father Asif Ali Zardari will be president.

Both parties have the numbers to form a government, said Bhutto Zardari, 35, son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, with Sharif at his side.

The announcement will likely end days of uncertainty following an inconclusive February 8 election, in which Khan's candidates, running as independents, defied odds by winning the most seats but fell short. to obtain an absolute majority. Rounds of negotiations followed, culminating in the announcement Tuesday evening.

Investors will be paying attention to what this means for Pakistani markets, which have been reeling after the election. The benchmark stock index has fallen for six of eight trading days since Feb. 8.

Questions also remain about the reaction of Khan's supporters. His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party staged protests across Pakistan over the weekend against allegations of election fraud. Their claims were bolstered when a Pakistani official said he had manipulated the vote count and that the Election Commission of Pakistan was also involved. The ECP, which oversaw the vote, and the caretaker government of Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, deny allegations of fraud.

Social media platform X, formerly Twitter, remained inaccessible for a third day across Pakistan on Tuesday, according to internet watchdog NetBlocks, as authorities blocked it to thwart protesters.

A new administration will need to support an economy hit by Asia's fastest inflation of 28% and negotiate a new loan with the International Monetary Fund after the current program expires in April. Shehbaz Sharif said it would be one of his first priorities if he became prime minister.

This is not the first time that the two parties of the family-controlled old guard have come together. They led a coalition after Khan's ouster in April 2022 and ruled the country for about 16 months. Shehbaz was prime minister, while Bhutto Zardari was his foreign minister.

During this period, the Bhutto Zardaris party appeared to distance itself from economic reforms carried out by the Sharif government, including increasing fuel prices.

For this year's elections, the two parties faced off as rivals, but later agreed to hold talks to save the country from political instability, according to Sharif.

The deadline for holding a parliamentary session to form the new government is February 29, said Murtaza Solangi, the country's acting information minister.

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