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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Parliamentary confidence vote in PM Shehbaz Sharif's government is supported by Pakistani lawmakers

In a show of hands designed to quell rumors that he was losing support amid a severe economic crisis, members of Pakistan's governing party overwhelmingly supported Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's administration on Thursday.

Cash-strapped Pakistan is attempting to prevent a default and is now in negotiations with the IMF to renew a $6 billion bailout agreement agreed in 2019 by Sharif's predecessor, the prime minister at the time, Imran Khan.

To comply with the bailout requirements and guarantee the delivery of a $1.2 billion tranche that has been held up since December, Sharif's administration recently reduced subsidies and increased taxes. However, their actions led to a rise in the cost of food, gas, and electricity.

This month's weekly inflation spiked to a record-breaking 47%, sparking worries of widespread unrest. Khan was dismissed in a vote of no-confidence in April of last year, and Sharif claims he inherited a poor economy from him.

Former cricketer turned Islamist politician Khan has said that Sharif and Washington plotted to have him removed from office. Both the US and Sharif have denied these claims. Khan has also organized large-scale demonstrations against Sharif's administration and called for early elections.

In the lower chamber of parliament's 342-seat National Assembly, lawmakers from Sharif's governing coalition—the Pakistan Democratic Movement—and its supporters supported his administration on Thursday with 180 votes in favor. Everyone voted in favor of Sharif.

Last year, the majority of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf legislators withdrew from the House of Representatives. Seven of the 30 Khan legislators who are still in office on Thursday voted in Sharif's favor. The other legislators stayed away or chose not to participate in the vote.

After the voting, Sharif addressed the legislature in a televised address and said that nobody would be permitted to challenge the legitimacy of the assembly.

Khan's decision to dissolve two provincial legislatures in eastern Punjab and northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in January, where his party was in control, has also drawn criticism from the prime minister and his supporters.

On Thursday, representatives from Khan's party and government representatives met for the first time in Islamabad to discuss ways to break the impasse over conducting fresh elections in the two provinces.

At a time when Pakistan is going through one of its greatest economic crises, Sharif has charged Khan of simply trying to incite violence and unrest. In addition, Sharif is having difficulty rebuilding his country after last year's terrible floods, which claimed 1,739 lives and left $30 billion in damage.

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