Islamabad: Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday named former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the interim prime minister until his younger brother Shehbaz is elected as a member of parliament (MP) to succeed him as his eventual successor.
“I support Shehbaz Sharif after me but he will take time to contest elections so for the time being I nominate Shahid Khaqan Abbasi," Sharif told his supporters. The decision was taken in Islamabad in a meeting headed by Sharif and attended by the top party leaders who rallied behind the Sharifs, the country’s most powerful political family.
The Supreme Court on Friday disqualified 67-year-old Sharif for dishonesty and ruled that corruption cases be filed against him and his children over the Panama Papers scandal, forcing the embattled leader out of office. The court’s ruling abruptly ended Sharif’s third tenure as prime minister and forced the party’s top leadership to find his successor. Sharif first proposed the two names for party’s formal approval.
“The parliamentary board approved the nomination by Sharif as mark of trust in him," a party leader told PTI. But Shehbaz, the 65-year-old chief minister of Punjab, cannot immediately replace his brother as he is not an MP. Abbasi, the 58-year-old loyalist of Sharif, is expected to serve for 45 days and will resign to let Shehbaz succeed as permanent premier, party sources said.
It was decided to appoint Abbasi as interim prime minister to run the government until Shehbaz is elected as a member of parliament, they said. Pakistan has seen such arrangements in the past too. During former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf’s time, politician Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was appointed as an interim prime minister until Shaukat Aziz, who was nominated by Musharraf, got elected by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam (PMLQ).
Saturday’s meeting also decided to challenge Sharif’s disqualification through a review petition in the apex court. Sharif was accorded a tremendous welcome when arrived to chair the meeting. The participants chanted the famous party slogan for Sharif: ‘dekho dekho kaun aaya, sher aaya sher aaya.’ (Look who has come, lion has come.) Lion is the election symbol of PML-N and it is frequently used by his supporters to highlight the courage of Sharif.
Addressing the PML-N’s parliamentary meeting, Sharif expressed disbelief at the grounds for his dismissal and vowed to continue to struggle for the supremacy of the Constitution. “I still do not understand the grounds for my dismissal...When I never took a salary, what would I declare," he said, referring to the apex court’s ruling.
“When you take something, there’s a problem; when you don’t, there’s a problem," he added. “Is it only my family that should be held accountable? Is everyone else in this country sadiq and ameen?" Sharif said, and asked his political rivals to reveal their assets and sources of income. Sharif claimed that he did not receive any kickbacks or commissions and said, “I am proud that I have not been declared ineligible over charges of corruption."
Sharif warned that Pakistan would face a disaster one day if the political uncertainty remains. “Terrorism would have been eliminated had the sit-ins not taken place," he said. Sharif said he has no thirst for power and he no longer desires office. “I promise you that this country will become a beautiful nation one day...," he said, adding that the way he and his family has been treated is shameful.
The process to appoint a new PM started Friday when Sharif chaired the PML-N meeting and proposed the name of Shehbaz and none of the participants raised any objection. Shehbaz would contest the election from NA-120, a constituency from Lahore which has become vacant due to disqualification of Sharif.
Opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which was instrumental in Sharif’s disqualification, has already named Yasmeen Rashid as its candidate from NA-120. She was defeated by Sharif in the 2013 general election. According to party sources, it was a difficult decision to bring Shehbaz to Islamabad as it may create political vacuum in Punjab, which PML-N cannot afford ahead of next year elections. Hence, it was discussed to appoint permanent prime minister from the senior party leader for the remaining tenure of the government, which would end in June 2018.
Now when it has been decided that Shehbaz would be the premier, his son Hamza could be a choice for the post of chief minister of Punjab. But the problem is that Hamza is member of National Assembly and would have to be elected as member of provincial assembly first in order to succeed his father. PTI