Pakistan’s newly elected parliament takes oath amid allegations of election rigging

MPs have started arriving in the 336-seat National Assembly in Islamabad.

Islamabad:

Lawmakers were sworn in during the first meeting of Pakistan’s new parliament on Thursday, three weeks after elections marred by widespread allegations of rigging.

Pakistan voted on 8 February, with former Prime Minister Imran Khan jailed and barred from contesting elections, and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party targeted by a campaign of arrests and censorship. Created.

Khan’s followers fought hard to win more seats than any other party, but the army-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) coalition government is set to oust him from power.

According to the coalition agreement, former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif – who ousted Khan in the 2022 no-confidence vote – will be re-elected prime minister by the new MPs in the coming days.

Lawmakers began arriving at the 336-seat National Assembly in Islamabad on Thursday morning and took the oath of office in unison around 11:30 a.m. (0630 GMT).

PTI members were forced to participate in the election as independents, but some reached Parliament carrying photographs of Khan and demonstrated defiantly when Sharif and other PML-N leaders entered the chamber.

“Parliament is a sacred place in a democracy,” PTI acting chief Gohar Ali Khan told reporters as he arrived to take the oath.

“Those who do not have public confidence and do not have mandate should not sit here.”

When Gohar signed the MPs’ register, he waved a poster that read “Release Imran Khan”, but the moment was lost from the state TV broadcast due to a camera cut.

The Sharif family’s PML-N has agreed to govern with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), run by the clan of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, as well as several smaller factions.

In return, the PPP has been promised the presidency of Asif Ali Zardari, his grandfather and Bhutto’s widower.

Cabinet posts are yet to be announced.

Analysts consider the broader alliance an unsustainable venture given the economic and security crises plaguing the country of more than 240 million.

Monitors have also warned that the PML-N alliance may face a perceived lack of legitimacy by parts of the public who doubt whether their votes were counted.

Despite PTI-aligned candidates performing well above expectations, Imran Khan claims the election was blatantly rigged to prevent his party’s landslide return to power.

Islamabad cut off mobile internet signals across the country on election day, citing security reasons, but declined to provide specific details. The results were also delayed, further fueling claims of rigging.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)