Imran Khan picks Omar Ayub Khan as party’s PM nominee – a man wanted by Pakistan’s police

Jailed Pakistan leader Imran Khan has picked his former power minister Omar Ayub Khan as his party’s candidate for the prime minister’s role on Thursday, a week after the country concluded its national elections marred with accusations of rigging.

“Omar Ayub will be our candidate for the prime minister election, he has been nominated by Imran Khan,” Asad Qaiser, a senior leader of Mr Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) announced on Thursday after his meeting with the former premier in prison.

PTI’s top leader Gohar Khan said Mr Ayub has been nominated by Mr Khan directly for the top seat.

Currently in hiding, the close aide of Mr Khan is wanted in several ongoing investigation cases by Pakistan’s enforcement agencies. He has also been accused of rioting in cases that were slapped on the popular cricketer-turned-politician after his arrest in May last year.

He won a seat in the elections last week without actively campaigning. Despite facing criminal charges, candidates in Pakistan elections can contest elections and secure a role if they win.

Mr Ayub is the grandson of Pakistan’s first military dictator Ayub Khan.

While he was previously a part of PTI’s rival party PML-N led by Nawaz Sharif, he joined Mr Khan’s party in 2018.

PTI will now reach out to other parties to support Mr Ayub’s candidature for the prime ministership, Mr Qaiser said.

The party led by Mr Khan, remained ahead after more than 100 independent candidates it backed defeated the top two parties Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), claiming victory on Friday last week after delayed election results showed it was ahead of most seats.

Mr Khan’s opponents, a four time premier Mr Sharif and a millennial political dynast Bilawal Zardari Bhutto, have already announced an alliance to form a minority coalition government, a move seen as a political tactic to keep PTI out of power.

Just weeks before the elections, Mr Khan’s party was stripped of its election symbol “bat” by the country’s supreme court.

In another setback, PTI could hold no campaign rallies, had no polling agents on election day and faced internet restrictions, while there were serious allegations of vote manipulation as counting dragged on for three days – an unusually long delay in a country where preliminary indications of who has won normally emerge within a few hours of the close of polling booths.

After the first few results were announced it was neck-and-neck between the pre-election favourites, PML-N party, and a group of independents backed by former prime minister Imran Khan, with political dynasty scion’s PPP trailing in third.

The PTI has called for countrywide protests against what it called widespread rigging against it in the polls.

But the Election Commission of Pakistan has denied such accusations and said legal forums would address any specific concerns.

By law, the National Assembly, or the lower house of parliament, must be called by the president three weeks after the national election.

It means the parties have until 29 February to form a coalition. Lawmakers are sworn in during that session. They submit nomination papers for a number of key roles, including the speaker and leader of the house.

After these positions are filled, a new prime minister is elected through a parliamentary vote, a task that requires a simple majority of 134 seats.