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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s new parliament elected a speaker on Friday, despite protests from lawmakers loyal to jailed ex-prime minister Imran Khan three weeks after an election they claim was brazenly rigged.

Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of the military-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party was elected by parliamentarians from his party and a handful of others in a coalition pact shutting Khan’s followers out of power. The 336-seat National Assembly convened yesterday for the first time since Pakistan’s February 8 elections, and the alliance is slated to vote in PML-N’s Shehbaz Sharif as prime minister on Sunday.

As lawmakers prepared to elect Sadiq, parliamentarians backed by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party berated the outgoing speaker overseeing the ballot.

“How can intruders take part in voting?” asked senior PTI politician Omar Ayub Khan. “How can you exclude Imran Khan’s party which has a real mandate?”

As he cast his vote, the PTI lawmaker raised his fist and shouted, “Who will save Pakistan?”

“Imran Khan!” replied a crowd of PTI-backed lawmakers from the debate floor.

PTI’s candidate for speaker was defeated, receiving 91 votes to Sadiq’s 199.

PTI claim last month’s election was rigged to prevent their landslide victory — citing a massive delay in results and a polling day mobile internet blackout as evidence.

In the lead-up to the election Khan was jailed, barred from standing for office and given lengthy sentences for treason, graft and an illegal marriage.

PTI was targeted by a campaign of arrests and censorship analysts say was orchestrated by the powerful military establishment.

Party members were forced to run as independents in the election.

They defied the odds to secure more seats than any other party but fell far short of the majority needed to form a government.

That cleared the way for PML-N to ally with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) run by the family of slain ex-premier Benazir Bhutto, as well as a smattering of smaller parties.

Sadiq, who will shepherd the new government’s legislative agenda, was also speaker in a similar PML-N and PPP coalition which ousted Khan back in 2022 and put Sharif in power for the first time.

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