Sharif gets 180 votes, against the 172 needed to achieve a simple majority in the lower house of parliament.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif won a vote of confidence from the national assembly, in a big victory for the country’s ruling coalition amid persistent calls from the opposition for a general election.
Sharif was able to get 180 votes on Thursday, against the 172 needed for a simple majority in the lower house of parliament, President Raja Pervaiz Ashraf announced.
The vote came three days after the government vehemently denied reports that Sharif planned to seek a confidence vote. But in a surprise move after a lunch hosted by the prime minister on Thursday afternoon, lawmakers gathered in the assembly hall of the capital Islamabad, where Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who is also leader of his Pakistan People’s Party, tabled a resolution for the vote.
Sharif, who took office last year when he won 174 votes to succeed Imran Khan, who was ousted in a vote of no confidence, thanked his party members and allies for supporting him.
“This parliament elected me as prime minister,” he said after Thursday’s vote. “If he comes to a decision after the debate and binds the government and the cabinet, then it is obligatory for me to respect his decision. It is obligatory for me to support them.”
The show of force by the ruling coalition is being billed as a setback for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political party, which has been trying to force early elections.
Pakistan is expected to hold a general vote in October.
But in a political move aimed at putting pressure on the government to hold elections earlier, Khan in January dissolved local assemblies in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, both under his party’s control. Pakistan’s constitution requires elections to be held within 90 days of dissolving an assembly. Traditionally, votes for the provincial and national assemblies are held together.
However, the government has continued to insist that the elections must be held on the same date, citing what it said is a shortage of financial resources and the country’s deteriorating security situation.
Earlier on Thursday, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial urged the government and the PTI to negotiate the date of the elections.
“Please, for the sake of the constitution, sit with each other,” the chief judge said during a hearing on holding elections in Punjab, the country’s most populous province.
“The court cannot force (the political parties) to dialogue. The court only wants the implementation of the constitution for the dispute to be resolved,” Bandial said.
Sharif, in his speech to parliament, touched on the issue of the negotiations, saying that his government had agreed to invite the PTI to the talks despite the fact that some of his coalition partners were not in favour.
“Despite their reservations, we convinced them that there was nothing wrong with having talks… and hopefully we will start them today,” he said, adding that the only item on the agenda would be holding “same day” elections.
Later Thursday, the PTI announced that a three-member negotiating team made up of top party leaders Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Fawad Chaudhry and Ali Zafar would meet with a government delegation.