Pakistan to call parliament meeting on February 29 to choose PM: Report

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Pakistan’s lawmakers will meet on February 29 to elect a prime minister with former premier Shehbaz Sharif expected to take the job after his party formed a coalition to shut out jailed leader Imran Khan’s group despite it winning the most seats in contentious elections, Geo News television channel reported.

The legislators will elect a new speaker, deputy speaker and the prime minister in the first session of National Assembly, or lower house, the broadcaster said, citing unidentified officials at the office of the outgoing speaker, Raja Pervez Ashraf. Information Minister Murtaza Solangi did not immediately confirm the date.

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The meeting comes weeks after the February 8 national polls and as two family-controlled parties - Pakistan Muslim League-N led by former three times premier Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party co-chaired by ex-president Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari - agreed to form a coalition government to shut out jailed leader Imran Khan’s group despite it winning the most seats in contentious elections.

The parliament proceedings to elect the prime minister for the next five years is widely seen to be procedural as the coalition partners have already nominated Nawaz Sharif’s younger sibling, Shehbaz Sharif, as their candidate for the top job. They control 152 out of the 265 National Assembly seats. This does not include independent candidates who are joining different political parties after the elections.

Sharif comes up against Khan’s nominee for prime minister — Omar Ayub Khan, who is the grandson of a former military ruler. Ayub Khan has the support of independents associated with the cricket legend’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party who have joined a conservative Islamic party to secure reserved seats.

They now control more than 90 seats in total but how many of the independent candidates would switch to other political parties remains unclear.

Whoever becomes prime minister will need to immediately start negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a new loan to support the cash-strapped economy.

A Pakistani official told Bloomberg News that the country is seeking a fresh loan of at least $6 billion to repay billions of dollars in debt due this year.

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