Pakistan: Imran Khan picks Omar Ayub as PM nominee

Pakistan: Imran Khan picks Omar Ayub as PM nominee By A Robin - February 17, 2024
Omar Ayub Khan

Omar Ayub Khan

Jailed cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has named a man in hiding as his pick for Pakistan's prime minister.

Omar Ayub Khan will run against the candidate of Imran Khan's rivals.

Mr Ayub, one of the former prime minister's party leaders, is currently wanted by police on criminal charges. That does not bar him from running.

However, despite Mr Khan's independents unexpectedly winning the most seats in last week's election, they do not have enough to form a government.

Currently, the two main rivals appear on course to take control, after they formed a coalition - Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

A senior leader of Mr Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, Asad Qaiser, announced Mr Ayub as his pick for PM after meeting with the former premier in prison.

Members of Pakistan's National Assembly will elect the new prime minister and 56-year-old Mr Ayub will face off against the PML-N's Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz Sharif's brother.

Mr Ayub is on the run from criminal charges over riots sparked by Imran Khan's arrest in May last year. But that does not disqualify him from seeking the PM post.

If elected PM, Mr Ayub said his top priority is to free political prisoners. He won last week as an independent backed by PTI.

He is the grandson of Mohamed Ayub Khan, a military dictator and Pakistan's president from 1958 to 1969.

With the PPP's support, Mr Sharif on Wednesday put forward his brother Shehbaz as the PML-N's PM candidate.

The vote for Pakistan's next prime minister will take place after all new members of the National Assembly take their oaths, and the speaker and deputy speaker have been elected.

Independent candidates - a majority affiliated with Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) - won 93 of the 265 National Assembly seats that were contested in last Thursday's election. The PML-N won 75 seats while the PPP came third with 54 seats.

The PTI argues that its allies should have won even more votes and seats, alleging vote fraud and interference - which electoral officials have denied.

Earlier this week, a politician from the Jamaat-e-Islami party gave up his seat because he says the vote was rigged in his favour.

"We will not allow our mandate to be stolen," Mr Ayub said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

"PTI as a party will work for strengthening democratic institutions in Pakistan so that the country's economy can be put on a path of positive trajectory and we can initiate our reforms programme to benefit the people of Pakistan," he said.

Mr Ayub was first elected into the nation's National Assembly in 2002 as a candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, a breakaway party from the PML-N.

He joined PML-N in 2012, and then moved again in 2018 to join PTI. He was a minister in Khan's cabinet from 2018 until the ex-PM's ouster in April 2022. He was appointed PTI's secretary-general since 27 May 2023, shortly after Khan's arrest.


By A Robin - February 17, 2024

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