Lahore, Feb 13 (PTI) Pakistan's former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday reaffirmed that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supremo Nawaz Sharif will become the prime minister for a record fourth time.

"I had said that Nawaz Sharif would become prime minister for the fourth time. And I maintain today that he is going to be the PM for the fourth time," Shehbaz told a press conference at the party's headquarters here on Tuesday.

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When asked whether he was no more favourite to grab the top post, he said: "My candidate for the PM slot is Nawaz Sharif."

The now 74-year-old leader, Nawaz Sharif first took power in 1990 but was forced out three years later by corruption allegations -- a theme that has dogged his career.

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He came to power for the second time in 1997 and held the prime minister's post till 1999 when he was deposed in a military coup after plotting to sideline army chief of staff Pervez Musharraf.

More than a decade later he was back in power in 2013, but fresh graft allegations emerged when his children were named in the 2016 Panama Papers leak for holding offshore companies.

He was later convicted over separate corruption allegations and disqualified from office for life -- the third time that he failed to complete a full term.

Shehbaz, the three-time former prime minister's younger brother, talking about the allegation of rigging in the recently concluded February 8 polls said that in several areas Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stalwarts lost and independents won.

“In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the majority is of independent candidates […] does it mean they won through rigging? And in Sindh and Balochistan, there was no sign of independents,” he said.

Shehbaz, who led a PDM government for 16 months after toppling the Imran Khan government in April 2022, also asked Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed independents to form the government if they had the majority.

"If the PTI-backed candidates have the majority to form the government in Islamabad they should try it and we will sit in the opposition benches. If they fail, then we along with other parties like PPP, MQM-P, and JUI-F will cobble up a coalition set up to steer the country out of crises," he said.

The PML-N President further said that after the party lost in 2018, it did not abuse anyone or hold any sit-ins.

“We went to Parliament with black armbands […] who doesn't know that the election was stolen? We didn't say we would set Parliament on fire or give the nation a message of civil disobedience.”

Shehbaz said the next phase had begun after the polls and emphasised: “If they call themselves PTI-sponsored or non-PTI-sponsored - if they can form a government then they should. The president will not give them an invitation.”

Independent candidates, mostly backed by Khan's PTI, won 101 seats in the 266-member National Assembly in the February 8 general elections. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's PML-N has won 75 seats and former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) has won 54 seats.

The PTI-backed candidates ran as independents due to the party losing the election symbol of ‘bat' following controversy surrounding its intra-party elections.

According to the party, the PTI was cruising with a lead of 170 National Assembly seats before the alleged rigging swung the pendulum in favour of the PML-N.

Shehbaz also noted alleged rigging in past polls and asked: “Which election is there where allegations of rigging were not made?”

“On one hand there are allegations of rigging [but] then independents are winning and we are losing. This is contradictory,” he said.

“So please, elections have happened and it was proven that out of political parties, PML-N is the biggest party. If you count independents, then their number is greater - but in political parties, PML-N is number one,” he said.

Shehbaz also alleged that non-state actors did not allow the people to cast votes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province benefiting the PTI-backed candidates. "This must also be investigated who brought terrorists to Swat," he said.

In a response to questions regarding inducting “turncoats” into the PML-N, Shehbaz said PTI hurled abuses at his party during its election campaign.

“Despite that, Nawaz Sharif said that PTI-backed independents should be given their constitutional right to form a government if they want to.

“But if people want to join the PML-N out of their own will, what is the problem in that?” he asked.

“In the name of God, in the name of Pakistan, we should show the world that we have learned our lesson […] and make Pakistan a country envisioned by Iqbal and Quaid,” the PML-N president said.

Separately, a PML-N source said some senior party leaders were of the view that the elder Sharif should lead the federal government himself and make Shehbaz Sharif the chief minister of Punjab.

“During Shehbaz Sharif's recent meeting with PPP top leadership -- Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari -- the power-sharing formula was discussed, not names for the PM slot. The PML-N appears to be willing to part with several coveted posts such as the offices of the president, National Assembly speaker and the Senate chairman -- and hand them to the PPP in exchange for the premiership," the source said.

The PML-N source said a deadlock may arise between the PML-N and PPP on two possible fronts -- firstly if the PPP wants the PM slot for Bilawal, and secondly, if they disagree on Nawaz's name for premier."

In case Nawaz is not picked for the premiership then his daughter Maryam Nawaz will be the favourite for the Punjab minister's office.

PPP senior leader Faisal Karim Kundi is of the view that his party should not be part of the PML-N-led government if Bilawal Bhutto does not get the premier slot.

“As Central Secretary Information of the PPP, I propose that if Bilawal Bhutto does not secure the prime minister position in a stable coalition alliance, we should opt for opposition,” Kundi said on X.

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from Syndicated News feed, LatestLY Staff may not have modified or edited the content body)