Parliamentarians sworn in in Pakistan amid protests by Imran Khan allies

Parliamentarians sworn in in Pakistan amid protests by Imran Khan allies

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s National Assembly swore in newly elected members Thursday amid scenes of chaos, as allies of jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan protested what they say was a rigged election.

Lawmakers from Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), repeatedly shouted “Vote thief!” while Shehbaz Sharif, who is expected to form the government, entered the lower house of Parliament accompanied by his brother, Nawaz Sharif. Both were prime minister in the past.

Outgoing Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf administered oath to the new MPs at noon.

Shouts of “Long live Sharif!” were heard in the chamber. when the brothers signed their minutes after taking the oath. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the young president of the Pakistan People’s Party and a key ally of Sharif, was greeted with similar chants.

The new government will face challenges such as a surge in insurgent attacks and energy shortages, as well as an economic crisis that will force Pakistan to ask for another bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

Lawmakers from Khan’s PTI told reporters they will continue their campaign against election rigging inside and outside parliament.

“Yes, the election has been rigged,” said Gohar Ali Khan, the current head of the party.

The PTI has called for nationwide protests on Saturday. The party maintains that its results were altered in dozens of constituencies to prevent it from winning a majority, an accusation the country’s electoral commission denies.

Following the February 8 vote, Commonwealth observers praised Pakistani officials for holding the election despite multiple insurgent attacks in the previous days, but the US State Department said the vote was held under restrictions on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. The European Union also criticized the inability of some political actors to be on the ballot. The Foreign Ministry responded to the criticism by stating that the elections were carried out in a free, fair and transparent manner.

None of the foreign observers described widespread vote theft.

The Pakistan Muslim League, or PML-N, Sharif’s party, and the Pakistan People’s Party of former president Asif Ali Zardari, were the parties that obtained the greatest representation in the 336-seat Assembly.

Under the power-sharing formula, Sharif’s party will back Zardari in next month’s presidential election. Outgoing president Arif Alvi is an ally of Khan and was a prominent member of his PTI before taking office.

Khan is serving multiple prison sentences and is prohibited from running for or holding public office. He has been convicted of corruption, revealing official secrets, and breaching marital laws in three separate convictions with concurrent sentences of 10, 14, and 7 years in prison, respectively. The former president has appealed all the processes, but still has around 170 pending on charges ranging from corruption to incitement to violence or terrorism.

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