The names of former three-time PM Nawaz Sharif (74), his brother, ex-PM Shehbaz Sharif (72), and former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (35) have so far surfaced.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) followers, however, want to see their jailed party chief, Imran Khan, back in office, a wish that cannot be fulfilled in the given situation.
PTI-backed Independent candidates have so far won 93 National Assembly seats, the highest by any party, but it falls very short of the 169-seat simple majority needed to form a federal govt. With 75 seats, the Nawaz Sharif-led PML-N finished second, despite having strong support from the powerful military establishment.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), led by former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, came in third with 54 seats. Another important stakeholder in the political wheeling and dealing is Karachi-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) with 17 seats. The remaining lawmakers are from smaller parties with one or two votes.
To form a govt at the centre, one likely scenario can be that PML-N allies with PPP and some smaller parties. The two parties have a working relationship since they jointly governed the country for 18 months after ousting Imran Khan’s govt in April 2022. To win the PM’s slot, PML-N, reports suggest, has offered the slots of president, NA speaker and Senate chairman to PPP.
Delegations of their parties, led by former president Asif Ali Zardari and Shehbaz Sharif, had met in Lahore on Sunday. It was the second meeting between the two politicians.
PPP seems to be taking its time while considering its options, besides demanding the job of PM for Bilawal.
With the existing number of seats, PTI can only form govt by allying with either PML-N or PPP, but this seems unlikely. PPP has said that its doors for consultations are open to all. Imran’s media adviser, Zulfi Bukhari, told media that it is quite likely that PTI will sit in opposition instead of forming a coalition if it fails to muster a majority. Unsuccessful PTI candidates have filled the courts with claims of vote-rigging. PTI supporters have also held demonstrations in front of election commission offices across the country.
As per law, the National Assembly, Pakistan’s Lower House, must be called by the president within three weeks of elections. The first matter at hand for the newly elected lawmakers would be to elect a speaker. The new speaker would then call for the election of leader of the House, or PM. Becoming PM requires a simple majority — 169 of the 336 seats (formerly 342).
There can be multiple candidates for PM. If no candidate secures a majority in the first round, a second vote is held between the top two contenders.
Once a PM is elected, he or she takes the oath of office and announces the cabinet. The interim set-up in place to oversee elections then hands over to the new govt.
Parties are allocated 70 reserved seats — 60 for women, 10 for non-Muslims — in proportion to the number of seats won by each party. Independents are not eligible for reserved seats.