Staunch Sharif ally named PM
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