Pakistani lawmakers elect former petroleum minister Abbasi as interim PM to replace ousted Nawaz Sharif

Pakistani lawmakers on Tuesday elected former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the country's new prime minister, replacing ousted veteran leader Nawaz Sharif.
Mr Shahid Khaqan Abbasi leaves after submitting his nomination paper at the National Assembly in Islamabad, on July 31, 2017.
Mr Shahid Khaqan Abbasi leaves after submitting his nomination paper at the National Assembly in Islamabad, on July 31, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

ISLAMABAD (REUTERS, AFP) - Pakistani lawmakers on Tuesday (Aug 1) elected former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the country’s new prime minister, replacing ousted veteran leader Nawaz Sharif.

Sharif’s ruling PML-N party used its majority in the National Assembly to install Abbasi, after the Supreme Court last week ordered Nawaz Sharif disqualified from office over failure to disclose a source of income.  

Abassi’s tenure is expected to be short, as Sharif has earmarked his brother Shahbaz as the successor once he becomes eligible.  Shahbaz, currently the chief minister of the vast Punjab priovince, needs to win a parliamentary by-election before other lawmakers can elect him as prime minister.

Pakistan's Constitution requires a candidate for prime minister to win a two-thirds majority from the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

Five opposition candidates had also applied. Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and his opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, who led the campaign against Sharif, had nominated Awami Muslim League head Sheikh Rashid Ahmed as their candidate.

But Abbasi, a long-time Sharif loyalist, was expected to win the vote easily as the PML-N commands a majority in the 342-member assembly.

Nawaz Sharif was the 15th prime minister in Pakistan's 70-year history - roughly half of which was under military rule - to be ousted before completing a full term.

The top court ousted Sharif last Friday after an investigation into corruption allegations against him and his family, bringing his historic third term in power to an unceremonious end and briefly plunging the nuclear-armed nation into political instability.

The court said in its judgement that it was disqualifying Sharif for failing to disclose his monthly salary of 10,000 dirhams (S$3,664) from a company owned by his son in the United Arab Emirates.

Sharif did not withdraw the salary, court documents show, but the five-member bench ruled that his failure to disclose its existence meant he was not "honest" - a requirement for Pakistani politicians under the country's constitution.

Sharif's link to the UAE company was exposed as part of an investigation into corruption allegations against his family that erupted following the Panama Papers leak last year.

The publication of 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca documenting the offshore dealings of many of the world's rich and powerful implicated three of Sharif's four children - daughter Maryam and sons Hasan and Hussein.

Claims about the lavish lifestyles and luxury London property portfolio of the Sharif dynasty played out for months in endless loops in the country's raucous news media.

Bribery and other forms of graft are endemic in Pakistan. The PML-N has consistently and noisily denied the accusations, insisting that the dynasty's wealth was acquired legally through Sharif family businesses in Pakistan and the Gulf.