Ousted Sharif names brother as suc­ces­sor

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

IS­LAM­ABAD: Pak­istan’s ousted prime min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif named his brother Shah­baz, the chief min­is­ter of Pun­jab prov­ince, as his suc­ces­sor and nom­i­nated ex-oil min­is­ter Shahid Khaqan Ab­basi as an in­terim pre­mier in a de­fi­ant speech yes­ter­day. The an­nounce­ment charts a way for­ward for Pak­istan af­ter the Supreme Court de­posed Sharif Fri­day fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions against him and his fam­ily.

The rul­ing brought to an un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous end his his­toric third term in power and briefly plunged the coun­try into po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty. “I sup­port Shah­baz Sharif af­ter me but he will take time to con­test elec­tions so for the time be­ing I nom­i­nate Shahid Khaqan Ab­basi,” Sharif said in a tele­vised speech to his party. The younger Sharif - who has so far been un­scathed by the cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions en­gulf­ing his brother’s fam­ily - holds only a pro­vin­cial seat, so must be elected to the na­tional as­sem­bly be­fore be­com­ing the new prime min­is­ter.

Ear­lier yes­ter­day, the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion of Pak­istan con­firmed fresh elec­tions would be held in Nawaz Sharif’s for­mer con­stituency, in the fam­ily’s power base of Pun­jab prov­ince, in a process which could take up to 45 days. Con­sid­ered more in­telli- gent but less charis­matic than his older brother, Shah­baz Sharif has con­trolled Pun­jab - Pak­istan’s

most pop­u­lous and pros­per­ous prov­ince - for much of the last decade, pre­sid­ing over a se­ries of big ticket in­fra­struc­ture projects.

Ab­basi is set to be rub­ber-stamped as place­holder in a par­lia­men­tary vote, with Sharif’s rul­ing Pak­istan Mus­lim League-Nawaz (PML-N) com­mand­ing a ma­jor­ity in the 342-seat house. There was no im­me­di­ate con­fir­ma­tion of when the vote would take place. An elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer and the busi­ness­man who launched Pak­istan’s most suc­cess­ful pri­vate air­line, Air Blue, Ab­basi is con­sid­ered a highly-in­tel­li­gent Sharif loy­al­ist who has been elected to the na­tional as­sem­bly six times since 1988.

The op­po­si­tion could also field a can­di­date for the pre­mier­ship, though the nom­i­nee has lit­tle chance of get­ting suf­fi­cient votes. Nawaz Sharif be­came the 15th prime min­is­ter in Pak­istan’s 70-year his­tory - roughly half of which was un­der mil­i­tary rule - to be ousted be­fore com­plet­ing a full term. In his tele­vised speech to PML-N par­lia­men­tary mem­bers yes­ter­day, he an­grily de­nounced the rul­ing and warned the coun­try was “de­scend­ing into chaos”. “I have no re­grets... I will con­tinue to fight for my vi­sion of Pak­istan,” he said.

The Supreme Court said in its judge­ment Fri­day that it was dis­qual­i­fy­ing Sharif for fail­ing to dis­close his monthly salary of 10,000 dirhams ($2,700) from a com­pany owned by his son in the United Arab Emi­rates. Sharif did not with­draw the salary, court doc­u­ments show, but the five-mem­ber bench ruled his fail­ure to dis­close its ex­is­tence meant he was not “hon­est” - a re­quire­ment for Pak­istani politi­cians un­der the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion.

The de­ci­sion sent his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents into the streets hand­ing out sweets and beat­ing drums in cel­e­bra­tion. Op­po­si­tion leader Im­ran Khan, who has spear­headed the push against Sharif, hailed the ver­dict as ush­er­ing in a new dawn for Pak­istan. But Pak­ista­nis were di­vided on whether it set the coun­try’s demo­cratic progress back, with sup­port­ers and com­men­ta­tors and lament­ing the oust­ing of a demo­crat­i­cally elected pre­mier on a “tech­ni­cal­ity” in what some termed a “ju­di­cial coup”.

Sharif’s link to the UAE com­pany was ex­posed as part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions against his fam­ily that erupted as a re­sult of the Panama Pa­pers leak last year. The pub­li­ca­tion of 11.5 mil­lion se­cret doc­u­ments from Pana­ma­nian law firm Mos­sack Fon­seca doc­u­ment­ing the off­shore deal­ings of many of the world’s rich and pow­er­ful im­pli­cated three of Sharif’s four chil­dren - daugh­ter Maryam and sons Hasan and Hus­sein.

Claims about the lav­ish life­styles and lux­ury Lon­don prop­erty port­fo­lio of the Sharif dy­nasty played out for months in end­less loops in the coun­try’s rau­cous news me­dia. Bribery and other forms of graft are en­demic in Pak­istan. The PML-N has con­sis­tently and nois­ily de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions, in­sist­ing that the dy­nasty’s wealth was ac­quired legally through Sharif fam­ily busi­nesses in Pak­istan and the Gulf. — AFP

—AFP

IS­LAM­ABAD: Pak­istan’s ousted prime min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif ad­dresses his party yes­ter­day. (In­set) In this pho­to­graph taken on June 17, 2017, Shah­baz Sharif ad­dresses the me­dia af­ter ap­pear­ing be­fore the anti-cor­rup­tion com­mis­sion at the Fed­eral Ju­di­cial Academy.

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