Ally of ex-Pakistan PM wins confidence vote in blow to gov’t

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — A political ally of Pakistan’s former prime minister won a vote of confidence early Thursday in the Punjab Assembly, a major blow to the federal government, officials said.

Pervez Elahi secured 186 votes in the 371-seat Punjab Assembly to remain the chief minister in Punjab, weeks after the provincial governor, Balighur Rehman, sacked him. Rehman claimed he had lost the confidence of a majority in the legislature.

Elahi’s win was a major challenge to the federal government of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, whose Pakistan Muslim League party is in opposition in the country’s most populous Punjab province.

The vote came weeks after former prime minister Imran Khan said his party was quitting Pakistan’s two regional and national assemblies to pressure Sharif’s government to hold early national elections.

It was unclear whether Elahi will dissolve the Punjab Assembly on Khan’s order. The former premier wants his allies to dissolve the two regional assemblies to pave the way for early elections.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled in 2023.

Khan, a former cricket star-turned-politician, was ousted in a no-confidence vote by Parliament last April. He wants early elections as he says his ouster was orchestrated by Sharif, with the U.S. government’s help. Sharif and Washington have denied the allegation.