1708073131 Nawaz Sharif Pakistan a country divided between two political dynasties

Nawaz Sharif: Pakistan, a country divided between two political dynasties | International

Nawaz Sharif Pakistan a country divided between two political dynasties

In turbulent Pakistan, politics remains a matter of family clans. After last Thursday's general election, which was rocked by violence and allegations of fraud, the two main parties in the National Assembly emerged from the polls, representatives of two political dynasties that have monopolized much of the power in recent decades, this week They agreed to join forces and their votes to install 72-year-old Shehbaz Sharif as prime minister with the support of other minority parties. If the pact ultimately succeeds, it would ignore the formation of jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose independent candidates led the test and are the leading force in parliament, although they do not have a sufficient majority to form a government on their own. Khan's party this Thursday also nominated its general secretary Omar Ayub as a candidate for prime minister, although he apparently does not have the necessary support.

The presumed next prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), had already briefly served as head of government between 2022 and 2023 after Khan was ousted from power by the no-confidence motion. During these months he had to deal with a similar coalition of parties. Shehbaz is the younger brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who headed the executive branch up to three times. Nawaz was the one who actually contested the elections as PML-N leader after he returned from a four-year self-imposed exile and the sentences against him were overturned. But ultimately it was his brother who was nominated for investiture after reaching an agreement with the other major political dynasty in the world's fifth largest country (population 235.8 million in 2022): the Bhuttos.

The third party in the assembly, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), is led by Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, son of Benazir Bhutto, the first woman to serve as head of government in a Muslim country, assassinated in 2007, and grandson of former Benazir Bhutto Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was deposed and executed by the military in 1979. Bilawal confirmed on Monday that he would support the PML-N's candidature, but without joining the executive branch. In any case, in the distribution of power quotas, Asif Ali Zardari, father of Bilawal Bhutto, widower of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto and co-president of the PPP, will be nominated for the position of president of the country, a position that he has already found between 2008 and 2013.

The vote is expected to take place in the coming weeks in a parliament where Imran Khan's independent candidates won 93 seats, compared to 75 for the Sharif party and 54 for the Bhutto party. In the elections, candidates competed for 264 seats out of the total 336 seats in the assembly. The rest are seats reserved for women and minorities, which are distributed according to the balance of power, although independents are not taken into account in this allocation. The Prime Minister must be sworn in with a simple majority of 169 votes.

“We have decided to form a coalition government [para] free the country from the crisis [actual]Bhutto-Zardari said at an appearance in Islamabad attended by both parties, along with other minority political forces who plan to lend their support at the inauguration. “The period of criticism during the elections has ended, now a new parliament will be formed. “We must end our differences to move our nation forward and rebuild our economy,” said Shehbaz Sharif, who assured that the parties supporting him over have a two-thirds majority in parliament. Zardari even claimed the support of the imprisoned Khan's group, the Pakistan Justice Movement (PTI), as part of a reconciliation process. “Everyone must be involved in the economic agenda in the interest of the nation,” the politician said, Pakistani media Geo News reported.

Crisis in a nuclear country

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The nuclear nation is trying to master a complicated situation. On the one hand, there are the shocks of a growing spiral of violence linked to insurgent militias in the border areas with Afghanistan. On the other hand, the country is mired in a post-pandemic economic crisis with rampant inflation of around 30% and is facing a debt black hole that requires negotiating a new rescue package with the International Monetary Fund. Islamabad agreed last summer – then as Prime Minister Shehbaz – with the multilateral organization on a package of 3 billion dollars (around 2.8 billion euros) in return for a stabilization program that expires in March. Renegotiations will be one of the central tasks of the new government.

In the bitter battle of family powers, the Sharif lineage is fielding another horse, that of PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Nawaz and niece of Shehbaz. After the regional elections, which coincided with the general elections, Maryam was appointed head of the executive branch of the Punjab province, a position already held by her uncle and father. She was responsible for propagating the idea that her father was not giving up politics but would actively participate in and monitor the federal and Punjab governments. He made it clear that the reason for his absence had to do with his commitments during the election campaign: “He made it clear in his election speeches that he would not be part of a coalition government,” said the daughter in a message on the social media network May Allah give us success.”

Punjab, the Sharif stronghold, is a political benchmark that is often crucial to victory at the national level. After the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, the family settled in the region's capital, Lahore. On the outskirts of the city, Maryam's grandfather and father of the two former prime ministers founded a steel company that became one of the largest foundries in the country. Both Nawaz and Shehbaz joined the industrial group in their youth before taking the plunge into politics, a path paved by the former, the eldest of the brothers.

Nawaz Sharif ruled three times between 1990 and 2017. And its successive rises and falls summarize the country's recent history. In the 1990s he alternated power with the assassinated Benazir Bhutto, but had to leave the country after the confrontation with General Pervez Musharraf, whom he himself had appointed head of the military. Musharraf led a coup and seized power as president in 2001. Sharif returned years later and served as prime minister again in 2013, but he resigned in 2017, surrounded by the so-called Panama Papers revelations that they attributed to him and his family (including his daughter Maryam) businesses in tax havens. He was convicted of corruption and went into exile again.

During his absence in 2018, Imran Khan's PTI managed to win the elections after winning over a large section of the electorate, especially the young and educated sections of Pakistani society. But once in charge, the 71-year-old Khan, a former national cricket star, came into conflict with the powerful military, whose influence remains crucial. He was removed from office in a parliamentary no-confidence motion in 2022 and replaced by Shehbaz Sharif, paving the way for the return of his self-exiled brother Nawaz Sharif last October. Shortly after his arrival, he appealed his sentences, which were overturned in December due to changing political winds. Shortly afterwards, he presented his candidacy for last Thursday's elections to the National Assembly.

Since election night, Khan's PTI has multiplied its complaints about fraud in an election it came to already in shambles: its leader was behind bars, with multiple prison sentences totaling dozens of years, and its candidates presented themselves as independents, according to The Election Commission banned the party from using its emblematic symbol, a cricket bat, in the elections. The party has denounced a strategy of political persecution. Shortly before the elections, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed “concern” about “the pattern of harassment, arrests and long detentions of PTI leaders and their sympathizers” as well as the numerous legal cases against Khan.

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