Party of Pak­istan’s ousted pre­mier picks loy­al­ist for in­terim role

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY MUNIR AHMED AND ZARAR KHAN

is­lam­abad, pak­istan — Pak­istan’s rul­ing party named se­nior law­maker Shahid Khaqan Ab­basi as suc­ces­sor to the de­posed prime min­is­ter on Satur­day, a day af­ter the Supreme Court re­moved Nawaz Sharif from of­fice for con­ceal­ing as­sets.

Sharif pro­posed Ab­basi as in­terim prime min­is­ter at a meet­ing of his Pak­istan Mus­lim League party in Is­lam­abad, the cap­i­tal. His re­quest was en­dorsed by law­mak­ers from his party.

Be­cause Sharif ’s party en­joys a com­fort­able ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment, Ab­basi, a long­time loy­al­ist, is ex­pected to eas­ily win the re­quired vote when the Na­tional As­sem­bly meets within the next week.

In a tele­vised speech Satur­day, Sharif said that his younger brother, Shah­baz, who is chief min­is­ter in Pun­jab prov­ince, would seek elec­tion to the Na­tional As­sem­bly in the seat that fell va­cant with his re­moval.

In an emo­tional ap­peal, Sharif sought sup­port for Shah­baz as a fu­ture full-time pre­mier. Sharif said he tried his best to put Pak­istan on the path of progress but was un­fairly pe­nal­ized with his dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

“I was not ex­pect­ing what hap­pened to me yes­ter­day,” he said.

Ab­basi, 58, has been elected six times to Pak­istan’s pow­er­ful lower house and has served in sev­eral cabi­net po­si­tions.

He was pe­tro­leum min­is­ter in Sharif’s cabi­net un­til Fri­day’s Supreme Court de­ci­sion dis­qual­i­fied Sharif and forced the se­lec­tion of a re­place­ment.

Ab­basi is a stal­wart in Sharif’s Pak­istan Mus­lim League party. When Sharif was over­thrown in a blood­less coup in 1999 by Gen. Pervez Mushar­raf, Ab­basi was charged with aid­ing Sharif, who had sought to avoid the coup by re­fus­ing to al­low Mushar­raf ’s plane to land in Pak­istan. Ab­basi was thrown in jail but ac­quit­ted of any wrong­do­ing two years later.

Ab­basi is ex­pected to be sworn in as prime min­is­ter af­ter the par­lia­men­tary vote. On Satur­day, he vowed to “con­tinue the mis­sion” of Sharif, adding that he was grate­ful to Sharif for nam­ing him pre­mier, even though it will only be for a brief pe­riod.

He is ex­pected to serve as prime min­is­ter for just 45 days un­til Shah­baz Sharif con­tends for and wins the up­com­ing by­elec­tion. Shah­baz Sharif is then ex­pected to be­come prime min­is­ter un­til gen­eral elec­tions are held next June.

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