Ousted Pakistan premier passes baton to brother
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — With his term as Pakistan’s prime minister cut short, and with his governing party facing critical national elections in less than a year, Nawaz Sharif announced publicly Saturday that he was choosing his younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif, to be his longterm replacement as prime minister and as the party’s standard-bearer.
On one level, it was a clear choice. Over the past four years, as chief minister of Punjab province, Pakistan’s most crucial political power base, Shehbaz Sharif, 65, has presided over a high-profile campaign of infrastructure improvements and social development programs.
“After losing out on the legal front, Nawaz Sharif cannot afford to also compromise on the integrity of his party,” said Rana Jawad, the news director of Pakistan’s most popular news channel, Geo News.
Where his older brother has been criticized in recent years for a low-energy style in power, Shehbaz Sharif has nurtured a nearly opposite reputation. His aides describe him as a workaholic with a taste for 7 a.m. staff meetings.
But the choice is not without risk for the Sharifs’ party, the Pakistan Muslim League. Shehbaz Sharif has also been dogged by accusations of police brutality under his watch as Punjab’s chief minister. And he has been criticized for doing too little to curb extremist sectarian groups in the province.
There are also questions about his health. Over the years, Sharif has undergone multiple treatments for cancer. His supporters insist that the hard-nosed style he was known for in early years has softened somewhat. And advisors say that his medical challenges over the years have driven his recent campaign of social development.