IslamabadPakistan National Assembly‘s crucial session began on Monday to elect a new prime minister, amid uncertainty over the status of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers who have started resigning from the House ahead of the voting to elect a new premier.

Opposition candidate and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf vice-chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi are in the race to become the new premier.

The Opposition had mustered 174 votes to oust Khan. If they can repeat it on Monday, 70-year-old Shehbaz will be the next prime minister of Pakistan.

Minutes before the start of the session, former information minister Fawad Chaudhry said all PTI lawmakers will resign from the National Assembly and not become part of any government which was being formed under a “foreign agenda – a reference to an allegation by Khan that the US was involved in a conspiracy to topple his government.

He said that the decision was taken in a meeting of the lawmakers of the party ahead of prime minister’s elections for which the party has nominated Qureshi as its candidate.

Qureshi apparently has little chance to succeed as his party has been depleted by the defections.

In the House of 342, the winning candidate should get support of at least 172 lawmakers. The combined opposition that is supporting Shehbaz has shown the requisite numbers in the no-trust vote.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet division on Sunday de-notified 52 members of the federal Cabinet after the historic vote of no-confidence by the joint Opposition.

The nomination papers of Shehbaz were accepted by the National Assembly Secretariat after objections raised by the PTI were rejected.

Qureshi’s nomination papers were also accepted.

According to the National Assembly agenda issued by the house’s secretariat for Monday, the prime minister’s election is the only item on the agenda. Senior PTI leader Babar Awan had challenged Shehbaz’s candidature, saying that the PML-N chief faced several court cases.

In 2019, the National Accountability Bureau arrested Shehbaz and his son, Hamza Sharif, accusing them of money laundering.

The process of electing the new leader of the house began on Sunday after Khan was removed from office through a no-confidence vote, becoming the first premier in the country’s history to be sent home after losing the trust of the House.

Pakistan has struggled with political instability since its formation in 1947 with multiple regime changes and military coups. No prime minister has ever completed a full five-year term.

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