Pakistan

Brother Shehbaz to step in Nawaz shoes, Abbasi to be interim PM

July 29, 2017 05:45 PM
Punjab ChM Shabaz Sharif

PML-N names Shehbaz as Nawaz Sharif’s successor, Abbasi to be interim PM

The ruling PML-N will decide on Nawaz Sharif’s successor at a meeting in Islamabad following his ouster as prime minister by the Supreme Court.

Islamabad: Pakistan’s ruling PML-N party is expected to formally name Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif as former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s successor following his disqualification, and former petroleum minister and senior PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will be interim prime minister until Shahbaz Sharif becomes member of parliament, Pakistan media said.

The Supreme Court also directed the National Accountability Bureau, the main anti-corruption watchdog, to file a case against Sharif, his children Maryam, Hussain and Hassan and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar for owning offshore assets. It also ordered a criminal investigation against finance minister Ishaq Dar, who is related to Sharif.

Hours after he was ousted on Friday by the Supreme Court for dishonesty in declaring his assets, Pakistani media reported that Sharif had told a meeting of top PML-N leaders he wanted his younger brother Shehbaz to succeed him.

An informal meeting chaired by Sharif on Saturday decided to rally behind Shehbaz after discussions that spanned four hours, the media reported. The meeting also zeroed in on Abbasi, a leading businessman and leader of the PLM-N, as the person who would hold the post of PM till Shebaz, a member of the provincial assembly of Punjab, is elected to Parliament.

Reports suggested the PML-N would nominate another MP to serve as interim prime minister for the 45-day period during which the ruling party can prove its majority in Parliament and elect a new leader of the House.

There were also reports the PML-N had mulled the option of nominating an MP who would serve as premier for the remaining tenure of the government but this appears to have been dropped. Elections are expected to be held by May 2018.

Former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif with leaders of his PML-N party and its allies during a meeting in Islamabad on July 28, 2017. (Twitter) 

Earlier, among the names doing the rounds for interim prime minister were former federal ministers Rana Tanveer, Khwaja Asif and Khurram Dastagir Khan and National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq. Some circles also named Sharif’s wife Kulsoom Nawaz as a possible candidate.

Sharif has moved out of the sprawling Prime Minister House’s in the heart of Islamabad and into the nearby Punjab House. All members of his cabinet have been denotified and their protocol has been removed.

At many public places such as airports and train stations, Sharif’s picture has been removed. There were no reports of major disturbances in any city following the Supreme Court’s verdict except for some minor skirmishes between workers of different parties in Islamabad.

Shahbaz Sharif with his wife Tehmina Durrani

The top court also directed the National Accountability Bureau, the main anti-corruption watchdog, to file a case against Sharif, his children Maryam, Hussain and Hassan and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar for owning offshore assets. It also ordered a criminal investigation against finance minister Ishaq Dar, who is related to Sharif.

Former Petroleum  Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq told a news briefing "We know very well what the crime of Nawaz Sharif and the Muslim League is. What do we ask for? We ask for civilian supremacy in Pakistan." 

The army has not commented on Sharif's removal, or allegations they were involved. In the past the army has dismissed claims they are behind Supreme Court's push against Sharif.

The interim leader would be in power for at least 45 days until Shahbaz steps down as the head of the Punjab government, and contests a by-election to the national assembly.

 Rafiq, the railways minister, told Geo TV late on Friday that it was not yet decided if the interim leader would be in power for a 45-day period or until the next general election, which have to held by early August 2018.

Whoever replaces Sharif will have to tackle Pakistan's worsening ties with the United States, frayed relations with India, and persistent attacks by Islamist militants including the Pakistani Taliban and Islamic State.

The state of the economy — which is growing at its fastest pace in a decade — has also began to concern economists, who are warning an over-valued currency is hurting exports and urge action over a ballooning current account deficit.

Shahbavz Sharif has been in charge of Punjab since 2008, building a reputation as a competent administrator focused on building infrastructure. He also has better relations with the military than his brother.

Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq told a news briefing. opposition has hailed the Supreme Court's decision to remove Nawaz Sharif as a sign of progress and greater accountability in a nation where impunity is rife.

"They have given Pakistan hope. This is what everyone is celebrating," Imran Khan, cricketer-turned-politician who leads the opposition PTI party, said on Friday.

Khan's PTI party plans to hold a victory rally on Sunday.

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