Younger Sharif 'less charismatic' than brother

The disqualification of Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court was big news in Peshawar yesterday.
The disqualification of Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court was big news in Peshawar yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

LAHORE • Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's younger brother Shahbaz has been named as his successor in a proposal unanimously adopted by their party.

Mr Shahbaz Sharif, 65, is Chief Minister of powerful Punjab province, a Sharif family stronghold that accounts for more than half of Pakistan's 190 million people, reported Agence France-Presse.

He would have to step down from that provincial role and be elected to the National Assembly before he is eligible to become prime minister of the country. The process is expected to take at least 45 days.

The party has named an interim prime minister for a few weeks before Mr Shahbaz Sharif can assume the post.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

Pakistan's election commission has already notified that Mr Nawaz Sharif's seat in Parliament has become vacant following the Supreme Court decision to bar him from public office.

Mr Shahbaz Sharif is considered more intelligent but less charismatic than his older brother. He also has better relations with the military than his brother.

The elder Mr Sharif said that he had received suggestions in favour of his brother for the next prime minister, which was met with applause by party members at the gathering, sources told Pakistan's Dawn.

He has controlled Punjab - Pakistan's most populous and prosperous province - for much of the last decade, presiding over a series of big-ticket infrastructure projects.

The selection of a successor to Mr Nawaz Sharif was largely a rubber-stamp affair as the party holds a strong majority in the National Assembly.

The proposal to consider Mr Shahbaz Sharif as a contender for prime minister was made by his brother during a Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party meeting last Friday following the Supreme Court verdict against Mr Nawaz Sharif.

The elder Mr Sharif said that he had received suggestions in favour of his brother for the next prime minister, which was met with applause by party members at the gathering, sources told Pakistan's Dawn.

But Mr Nawaz Sharif is understood to have expressed concern over who would become Punjab chief minister if Mr Shahbaz Sharif took up the reins of prime minister.

Some of the attendees at the meeting named Mr Hamza Shahbaz, Mr Shahbaz Sharif's son, as a possible candidate for Punjab chief minister. But Mr Nawaz Sharif is said to have shown little interest in the suggestion, neither agreeing nor disagreeing to it.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 30, 2017, with the headline 'Younger Sharif 'less charismatic' than brother'. Print Edition | Subscribe