Staunch Sharif ally named PM

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

IS­LAM­ABAD: Pak­istani law­mak­ers yes­ter­day elected for­mer petroleum min­is­ter Shahid Khaqan Ab­basi, an ally of ousted leader Nawaz Sharif, to re­place him, and the new pre­mier im­me­di­ately sought to pro­ject an im­age of sta­bil­ity.

Mem­bers of the rul­ing Pak­istan Mus­lim League (Nawaz) party banged on benches and chanted “Lion, lion, Nawaz Sharif ” af­ter the vote, stand­ing de­fi­ant in the wake of the Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion to cut short his third stint in power.

A quick tran­si­tion may ease fears that the nu­clear-armed na­tion will be plunged into an­other bout of po­lit­i­cal tur­moil, which could erode eco­nomic and se­cu­rity gains since the last poll in 2013.

Sharif re­signed on Fri­day af­ter the Supreme Court dis­qual­i­fied him for not declar­ing a source of in­come – which the three-time pre­mier dis­putes re­ceiv­ing.

He nom­i­nated staunch ally Ab­basi as in­terim leader un­til his brother, Shah­baz, be­comes el­i­gi­ble to take over, prob­a­bly within two months.

Ab­basi was con­firmed with 221 votes in the 342-seat Na­tional Assem­bly as the PML-N used its hefty ma­jor­ity to push through his ap­point­ment. PML-N of­fi­cials hugged each other and con­grat­u­lated Ab­basi even be­fore the re­sult was an­nounced.

“Within four days the process of democ­racy is back on track,” Ab­basi told law­mak­ers af­ter be­ing voted in. “Above all, I’m thank­ful to Muham­mad Nawaz Sharif, the peo­ple’s prime min­is­ter.”

PML-N of­fi­cials have pri­vately spo­ken of plans for Sharif to wield huge in­flu­ence in the party from be­hind the scenes.

“The prime ob­jec­tive is to give Pak­istan sta­bil­ity,” said Rana Muham­mad Afzal Khan, a PML-N mem­ber in the na­tional assem­bly. “As a re­spon­si­ble party we have to take Pak­istan ahead.”

But the plan to even­tu­ally in­stall Shah­baz has also sparked anger among sup­port­ers of op­po­si­tion leader Im­ran Khan, who has crit­i­cised an­other bout of dy­nas­tic pol­i­tics, a trend with a long his­tory in Pak­istan.

Khan, who ag­i­tated with street protests un­til the Supreme Court took up a cor­rup­tion case against Sharif, has called the fam­ily a “monar­chy” and ac­cused it of try­ing to turn the coun­try into a per­sonal fief­dom. – Reuters

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