Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

he PMLN and the PPP will lead a six-party coalition that has a comfortable majority. But the PTI accuses them of stealing the mandate.

New Pakistan government takes shape amid slew of jabs

Islamabad, Pakistan — A six-party alliance appears poised to form Pakistan’s next government, after nearly a week of political drama following a fractured mandate delivered by the country’s voters in the February 8 elections.

Led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), which won 75 seats, and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which secured 54 seats, the coalition — announced Tuesday night — will have more than 150 members in the parliament, crossing the required 134 seats for a simple majority in the National Assembly.

However, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is currently incarcerated on multiple convictions, described the alliance as “mandate thieves” and insisted that a government formed by the grouping of parties would lack “credibility”.

The PTI, which was forced to field independent candidates after losing its electoral symbol days before the vote, emerged as a clear winner: Candidates affiliated with the party won a total of 93 seats, according to the official results.

But the party said it was deprived of a far greater mandate by widespread rigging and the manipulation of results, with its current leader Gohar Ali Khan suggesting they have evidence showing that the PTI won at least 180 seats out of 266 that were voted for.

In the absence of those numbers officially, and under instructions from party leader Khan to not talk to PMLN, PPP and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the PTI on Tuesday also announced that it will attempt to form government in the national assembly by joining hands with the Majlis-e-Wahdat-Muslimeen (MWM). The MWM is a Shia political and religious party that won just one seat in the elections.

With the assembly session expected to start on February 29, critics of the PMLN-led alliance are raising questions about the sustainability of the incoming government, drawing parallels with the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition that ruled the country for 16 months starting April 2022 .

The PDM, also led by the PMLN and PPP, had come to power after deposing then-Prime Minister Khan through a vote of no confidence — much like the PTI and its supporters are accusing the six-party coalition of colluding to keep them out of office.

Shehbaz Sharif, the prime minister during the PDM tenure, has once again been nominated as the coalition’s choice for prime minister. Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the chairperson of the PPP and a foreign minister during the PDM government, had earlier ruled himself out of the race for prime minister, accepting that his party had not received the mandate for the top job.

Senior PMLN leader Ahsan Iqbal, who won his seat in the recently held elections, defended the credibility of the coalition and said that the nation had given a mandate to those parties that “saved the country from default”, which was on the verge of disaster “due to Khan’s PTI government.”

“Our coalition of parties under PDM took power when country was facing default. Our collective mandate shows that people trusted us, and this coalition has a strength of more than 150 people, and an overwhelming majority in three out of four provinces,” he told Al Jazeera.

In a news conference on Tuesday night, PPP leader and former President Asif Ali Zardari apparently extended an olive branch to the PTI.

“It is not that we want that PTI does not enter reconciliation. It should, and every other political force should come and talk to us,” he said.

It is not that we want that PTI does not enter reconciliation

PTI supporters protesting in Peshawar recently as the party claims its mandate in the recently held election as ‘stolen’ [EPA
The PTI, on the other hand, has insisted that it will not engage with parties it accuses of a “stolen mandate.”

“We are not talking to any of these parties regarding a coalition or consensus on the government since we feel our mandate was stolen,” Sayed Zulfiqar Bukhari, senior PTI leader told Al Jazeera. “If we felt the polls were fair, we would have dealt with them fairly, too. But none of these political parties have won the seats they are claiming victory on, making it impossible for us to talk to them.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a leader of the PPP claimed the PTI had been over by “extremist” elements taken unwilling to engage in constructive political talks. “We believe in the dialogue, but there was no positive response from the other side,” Al Jazeera told.

The PMLN’s Iqbal said that, facing political and economic instability, parties must set aside differences after the election to work together. The former federal minister said that instead of pursuing “negative politics,” every party must now focus on competing with each other on governance and delivery.

“Traditional parties are seasoned. They have learned the art of competition and collaboration simultaneously. They compete for their partisan politics, but also have the ability to forge collaboration on national issues. Unlike PTI, which is always in confrontation mode,” Iqbal added.

“Government and opposition are wheels of the same cart, and on national issues, they both must talk to each other. “We will again reach out to everyone in the parliament for a consensus on a charter of economy, and try to persuade them to work on such matters together,” he said.

PTI’s Bukhari, though, argued that Pakistan has already seen the performance of the PDM once and that the six-party coalition had nothing new to offer.

Bukhari, who is also an adviser to Khan, said that his party’s foremost priority is to seek “justice” regarding the alleged manipulation in the elections.

He added that the party will pursue legal avenues, as well as “show proof of rigging, both nationally and internationally.”

“We are happy to sit back and wait for the courts and ECP to decide on our cases, as we firmly believe that our rightful mandate was stolen and we will go to every length to get back what is ours,” Bukhari said.

“Till then, though, we will present the toughest, most robust and constructive opposition in the country’s history.”

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