Federal Budget

Shifting sands in Pakistan's political landscape

Shifting sands in Pakistan's political landscape

Pakistan

Shifting sands in Pakistan's political landscape

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By George Paul

After days of speculation and anticipation, Pakistan's political landscape has indeed experienced a seismic shift. The PML-N led by the Sharifs and the PPP led by Bilawal Bhutto have come together to form a coalition government in the wake of the 2024 general elections, which yielded a hung parliament.

Shehbaz Sharif has emerged as the consensus candidate for the position of prime minister, diverging from the original plan of having Nawaz Sharif in the lead role.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, scion of the influential Bhutto dynasty, has opted not to vie for the prime ministerial slot. Instead, his party has agreed to support Shehbaz Sharif's candidacy, albeit with certain conditions attached.

The PPP is eyeing key constitutional positions of the Presidency, Senate chairmanship and National Assembly speakership, with the backing of the Sharifs - a classic example of quid pro quo.

The coalition's strength will face a litmus test in Parliament, where they must secure enough votes for their government to be legitimised.

This new iteration of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) includes leaders from six parties, including defections from independent candidates backed by the PTI. Some of these individuals have already switched allegiance to join the Sharifs' camp.

As it stands, the coalition formed by Shehbaz Sharif has amassed a total of 152 general seats. However, with his own party holding only 75 out of the 336 seats in the National Assembly, a significant gap remains to achieve a majority.

To bolster their numbers, Shehbaz has hinted at courting independent lawmakers, with reports suggesting that 10 of them having already pledged their support.

With mighty economic challenges ahead, it is evident that the PML-N is once again risking its political capital in a bid to seize power if it fails to rein in the ballooning inflation.

On the other hand, the PTI has ruled out any talks with either the PML-N or the PPP, accusing them of plundering the mandate. The party has, however, announced its intention to field Omar Ayub Khan against Shehbaz Sharif for the coveted slot of PM.

It is still unclear how the PTI attempts to form alternative coalitions given that the Jamaat-e-Islami has already withdrawn its support, citing concerns over election rigging.

Meanwhile, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has opted not to align with his former PDM allies, accusing the Establishment of influencing the Election Commission of Pakistan. He has chosen to remain in the opposition.

PDM 2.0, the new coalition presented as a reconciliation effort, is poised to face challenges from its inception due to a lack of widespread popular support.

While the Establishment's involvement in the election process has drawn criticism for interference and manipulation, the stability of the coalition government is called into question due to its dependence on a narrow majority in Parliament rather than broad public support.