Abbasi: Pak's accidental PM till Shehbaz is elected
Pakistan's ruling party PML-N on Saturday named former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the interim prime minister until ousted premier Nawaz Sharif's younger brother Shehbaz is elected as a member of Parliament to be his eventual successor. The decision was taken at a meeting here headed by Sharif and attended by the top party leaders who rallied behind the Sharifs, the country's most powerful political family.
The Supreme Court had on Friday disqualified 67-year-old Sharif for "dishonesty" and ruled that corruption cases be filed against him and his children over the Panama Papers scandal, forcing the embattled leader out of office. The court's ruling abruptly ended Sharif's third tenure as prime minister and forced the party's top leadership to find his successor.
Sharif proposed the two names for party's formal approval. "The Parliamentary Board approved the nomination by Sharif as mark of trust in him," said a party leader. But Shehbaz, the 65-year-old chief minister of Punjab, cannot immediately replace his brother as he is not an MP.
Abbasi, the 58-year-old loyalist of Sharif, is expected to serve for 45 days and will resign to let Shehbaz succeed as permanent premier. Saturday's meeting also decided to challenge Sharif's disqualification through a review petition in the apex court.
Sharif was accorded a rousing welcome when arrived to chair the meeting. The participants chanted the famous party slogan for Sharif: 'dekho dekho kaun aaya, sher aaya sher aaya.' (Look who has come, lion has come.) The lion is the election symbol of the PML-N and is frequently used by his supporters to highlight Sharif's courage.
The process to appoint a new PM started on Friday when Sharif chaired the PML-N meeting and proposed the name of Shehbaz and none of the participants raised any objection. Shehbaz would contest the election from NA-120, a constituency from Lahore which has become vacant due to disqualification of Sharif.
Is Nawaz barred for life.... Or can he come back?
A day after the Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from holding public office, legal experts and political observers appear equally confused, as are ordinary Pakistani citizens. When the question about the duration of the 67-year-old veteran politician's ouster from Pakistan's active politics was put to seasoned lawyers, most seemed confused.
Former chief justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, hearing one of such cases, had wondered how anyone could be disqualified from participating in elections forever on the basis of articles 62 and 63, saying people could reform themselves to be qualified under the provisions at some point of time.