Pakistan's National Assembly has been dissolved, and outgoing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has been replaced by an interim successor to oversee a general election scheduled in 90 days amid the country's economic and political woes.
The legislature was dissolved on Wednesday, three days before the conclusion of its five-year term. It was the third time in Pakistan's 76-year volatile democratic history that the National Assembly completed its allotted term.
However, the next election in the country of 241 million people may be postponed for several months since the Election Commission of Pakistan, which conducts it, has stated that it must first redraw nationwide electoral boundaries based on new census data.
Sharif led a coalition government of approximately a dozen parties after they forced his predecessor, Imran Khan, to resign in April 2022.
As Pakistan implemented severe changes to earn a much-needed loan from the International Monetary Fund in July, it faced a deepening economic crisis and historically high inflation levels. Despite last year's severe flooding and soaring energy prices caused by the Ukraine war, Sharif defended and complimented his administration for attempting to address Pakistan's difficulties.
Critics admitted that Sharif's 16-month reign made it difficult to solve years of deeply rooted economic challenges. They did, however, criticize the government for rapidly approving scores of contentious measures in the weeks before parliament was dissolved, allegedly to appease the military.
"I think this parliament has left the state in shambles; it fast descended into a mode where it seems to have surrendered to the militarization of different civilian sectors in Pakistan " said Hina Jilani, head of the country's independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI, party won the last general election in 2018, enabling the cricket star-turned-politician to become the prime minister and form a coalition government before he was toppled by the parliamentary vote last year.
Last week, Khan was sentenced to three years in prison for alleged embezzlement of official gifts while in office and was subsequently banned from contesting an election for five years. Khan has denied any wrongdoing and he has accused the powerful Pakistani military of being responsible for the "politically motivated" fraud charges and other claims that have been made last year, including accusations of terrorism. The allegation has been denied by the military.