PDM 2.0: Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N and Bilawal Bhutto’s PPP agree to form coalition government, leaving Khan’s party out

Pakistan’s political scene saw a major twist on February 13 after a new version of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), this time dubbed as PDM 2.0 showed signs of revival. Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) formed an alliance, sidelining Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

The stage was set at Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s residence in the capital, where prominent figures including Shehbaz Sharif, Asif Zardari, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Sadiq Sanjrani, and Aleem Khan convened for a joint press conference, reminiscent of the pre-election camaraderie of the PDM.

“Inclusive representation from Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan, and KP signifies our collective strength,” Shehbaz Sharif noted, emphasizing the diverse yet unified representation. “With our majority, we pledge to address the nation’s challenges,” he assured, committing to effective governance.

Shehbaz Sharif, the perceived ‘reluctant’ consensual choice, is expected for a second chance at premiership.

“Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has nominated Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif for the post of prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” Marriyum Aurangzeb, the PML-N’s information secretary, wrote on X.

Leading the charge, he garnered pledges of support from key political figures representing the six major parties, excluding the PTI, during Tuesday night’s announcement of their intent to form a government at both federal and provincial levels.

The announcement of this formidable alliance was promptly conveyed through a tweet by Marriyum Aurangzeb, highlighting meticulous planning behind the scenes.

Maryam Nawaz: Coalition’s candidate for CM Punjab

Maryam Nawaz emerged as the coalition’s candidate for the Punjab chief minister position, solidifying the familial influence within the alliance.

Meanwhile, the PTI’s response was succinct, branding the coalition as ‘mandate thieves’ in a social media post, reflecting their discontent with being sidelined.

Coalition leaders’ remarks

Amidst the fervor, Asif Zardari, known for his political acumen, struck a conciliatory tone, emphasizing the need for unity in the face of political challenges. He extended an olive branch to the PTI, advocating for inclusive dialogue to address national issues.

“It is not that we want that PTI does not enter reconciliation. It should, and every other political force should come and talk to us. Our economic and defense agenda should be common. We should move forward with our commonalities and then make the house of Sharif and others successful, so we can make Pakistan successful.”

Shehbaz Sharif, emphasizing the coalition’s “near two-thirds majority” in parliament, stressed the acceptance of the split mandate, hinting at Asif Zardari’s potential ascension to the presidency.

Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, once critical of Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s aspirations, pledged unwavering support to Shehbaz Sharif, prioritizing national service over personal interests.

“We have supported him before and will do so in the future,” he told the news conference.

Aleem Khan echoed the sentiment, expressing hope in the prospective government’s ability to alleviate the plight of the underprivileged, underscoring the coalition’s commitment to social welfare.

Notably absent from the gathering was Maulana Fazlur Rehman, whose support was sought by the coalition, indicating ongoing negotiations to broaden the alliance’s base.

The late-night joint press conference superseded earlier engagements, including Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s rejection of government participation, opting instead for support in key constitutional offices.

Shehbaz Sharif welcomed the arrangement, challenging the PTI-backed independents to stake their claim for government formation.

“If the (PTI-backed) independents think they have a majority they should come forward and form the government in the Centre. We will welcome it and sit on the opposition benches… Pakistan has to move forward… now our fight will be against inflation,” he had said.

In a tit-for-tat exchange, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari criticized the MQM-P’s conduct, accusing them of electoral malpractice, while Faisal Sabzwari refrained from reciprocating in kind but derided Bhutto-Zardari’s aspirations.

As the dust settles on these developments, Pakistan braces for a new era of governance, marked by a coalition poised to tackle formidable challenges and reshape the political landscape.

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