QUETTA: The party of Pakistan’s incoming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is likely to form a coalition government with nationalists in the country’s troubled southwest, officials said yesterday.
The move could help bring the nationalists in Balochistan province, who have long-held grievances against the central government, into the mainstream of Pakistani politics — though more hard-line separatist groups boycotted the poll.
“We are in talks with all nationalist parties, they are our priority and we hope that we will form a coalition government with them,” Abdul Qadir, a newly elected PML-N national MP said.
“We want to form the government with both the Baluch and Pashtun nationalist parties,” Qadir said.
Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) won eight of the 51 directly elected seats in the provincial assembly, while the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) led by nationalist leader Mahmood Khan Achakzai emerged as the largest with nine seats.
Muhammad Usman Kakar, provincial president of PKMAP confirmed that his party was in talks with PML-N and other parties but said that as his party had most seats, with nine, it should nominate the chief minister.
The Islamist Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) party led by pro-Taleban cleric Fazlur Rehman, and Baluch nationalist National Party secured six seats each. Results for six constituencies are still awaited, according to the election commission.
Final vote count
The vote count from last weekend’s nationwide elections in Pakistan yesterday indicated a big win for former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s party.
Figures released by the country’s election commission, based on 254 of the 269 races where the counting has been completed, show Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N party will likely get a majority in the national assembly, setting him up to be prime minister for the third time.
As the new-old premier, the 63-year-old Sharif, a devout Muslim and a populist, is expected to supplant President Asif Ali Zardari as the international face of a nuclear power whose increasing instability and militant havens are a global concern, especially at a time when the West is looking to end the war in neighboring Afghanistan.
Sharif’s party so far has won 123 of the 254 directly elected national assembly seats, the commission spokesman Khursheed Alam said. The commission is still compiling results for 15 seats, and Alam said it hopes the remaining results will be released soon.
Earlier reports from the election commission yesterday wrongly indicated that the count was over.
There are 272 directly-elected seats in the lower house of Parliament, but races for three seats were not held because a candidate had died. A new vote will be scheduled for those seats after alternative names are proposed.
Mixed message to US
Pakistan’s presumptive prime minister said that he wants good relations with the United States but criticized American drone strikes on militants as a violation of the country’s sovereignty — perhaps hinting the government’s grudging compliance may change.
Sharif is expected to supplant President Asif Ali Zardari as the international face of Pakistan following his party’s resounding victory in Saturday’s election. He is set to rule over a nuclear power whose increasing instability and militant havens are a global concern, especially at a time when the West is looking to end the war in neighboring Afghanistan.
Analysts have cautioned that while such rhetoric sells on the campaign trail in a country where anti-American sentiment is high, Sharif is likely to take a more nuanced approach to US relations once in office.
Sharif reinforced that sense with his first comments since the vote about how he viewed the relationship with the US — a key issue since Washington relies on Islamabad for help in fighting militants and negotiating an end to the Afghan war.
“I think we have good relations with the United States of America. We certainly have to listen to each other,” said Sharif. “If there are any concerns on any side, I think we should address those concerns.”
Sherry Rehman resigns
Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman has resigned following the country’s landmark election held over the weekend, which was won by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
“Congratulating the new Parliament on its election Ambassador Sherry Rehman has sent in her resignation to the PM,” the Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC said on its official Twitter account early Tuesday Pakistan time.
“It is time a new envoy came in as quickly as possible so that there is no gap in the relationship,” it said in another tweet.
An aide of Rehman, who did not wish to be named, confirmed the move. She is expected to resume her role as president of the progressive Jinnah Institute think-tank she founded in Islamabad.