Pakistani lawmakers back PM in confidence vote in Parliament

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Lawmakers from Pakistan’s ruling party overwhelmingly backed Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s government in a confidence vote in Parliament on Thursday — a show of hands intended to halt speculations that he was losing support amid a major economic crisis.

Cash-strapped Pakistan is struggling to avoid a default and is now in talks with the International Monetary Fund on the revival of a $6 billion bailout signed in 2019 by Sharif’s predecessor, then-Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Sharif’s government in recent weeks slashed subsidies and raised taxes to comply with the bailout terms and secure the release of a $1.2 billion tranche that’s part of the deal stalled since December. Those measures, however, resulted in increases in the price of food, gas and power.

The weekly inflation this month jumped to a record-breaking 47%, raising fears of mass protests. Sharif says he inherited a bad economy from Khan, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote last April.

Khan, a former cricket star turned Islamist politician, has claimed his ouster was illegal and conspiracy by Sharif and Washington against him — allegations that the United States and Sharif have dismissed. Khan has also led mass protests against Sharif’s government, demanding early elections.

Lawmakers from Sharif’s ruling alliance — the Pakistan Democratic Movement — and their allies backed his government Thursday with 180 votes in favor in the 342-seat National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. No one voted against Sharif.

Most of the lawmakers from Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party resigned from Parliament last year. Out of the 30 Khan lawmakers still in Parliament, seven voted in Sharif’s favor Thursday. The rest of the lawmakers were absent or abstained from voting.

Sharif in a televised speech to lawmakers after the vote said no one will be allowed to undermine the authority of the parliament.

The prime minister and his allies have also criticized Khan’s move in which he dissolved two provincial assemblies in January, in eastern Punjab and northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where his party was in power.

Representatives from Khan’s party and government officials held talks for the first time in the capital, Islamabad, on Thursday on how to overcome a deadlock on holding new elections in the two provinces.

Sharif has accused Khan of only wanting to stir violence and discontent at a time when Pakistan is facing one of its worst economic crises. Sharif is also struggling with reconstruction work after devastating floods last year that killed 1,739 people and caused $30 billion in damages.

Sharif’s government is also struggling with a surge in militant attacks, particularly from the Pakistani Taliban after the collapse of a truce with the group. The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group but allied with neighboring Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers, who seized that country in August 2021.

Late Thursday, militants attacked a compound housing security forces in Pakistan’s restive northwest, triggering an intense shootout, police said. There was no immediate word on any casualties or who the militants were as the attack unfolded in Lakki Marwat, a district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Local police official Zahid Khan said security forces were returning fire and apparently had repulsed the attackers.


Associated Press writer Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan, contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

Federal News Network Logo

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up