Brother of ousted Pakistan PM likely to succeed him

Mr Nawaz Sharif (left) and his brother Shahbaz in a 2013 photo. Mr Nawaz Sharif has resigned as Prime Minister following a historic Supreme Court ruling barring him from office. Mr Shahbaz Sharif is set to contest his brother's vacated National Assem
Mr Nawaz Sharif (left) and his brother Shahbaz in a 2013 photo. Mr Nawaz Sharif has resigned as Prime Minister following a historic Supreme Court ruling barring him from office. Mr Shahbaz Sharif is set to contest his brother's vacated National Assembly seat.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Shahbaz Sharif to step down as Punjab chief minister and contest Nawaz's vacated seat

LAHORE • Pakistan's ruling party has nominated Punjab's Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif as prime minister after his older brother Nawaz Sharif resigned from the post following a historic Supreme Court ruling that barred him from office.
 

Mr Shahbaz Sharif, 65, will step down from his current position heading the province which is the family's heartland and vote bank to contest his brother's vacated National Assembly seat, said Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chairman Raja Zafarul Haq by phone yesterday.

The party's top leadership, including the elder Mr Sharif, proposed former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, 58, as a 45-day interim premier until Mr Shahbaz Sharif secured a parliamentary seat and became eligible to take over.

"I support Shahbaz Sharif after me but he will take time to contest elections, so for the time being, I nominate Shahid Khaqan Abbasi," Mr Nawaz Sharif said in a televised speech to his party.

Mr Nawaz Sharif became the 15th prime minister in Pakistan's 70-year history, about half of it under military rule, to be ousted before completing a full term when he was disqualified from office by the Supreme Court on Friday.

The ruling party is moving fast to quell the political turmoil following Mr Sharif's ousting on account of last year's so-called Panama Papers leak. The Election Commission of Pakistan confirmed fresh elections would be held in Mr Sharif's former constituency.

BROTHERLY SUPPORT

I support Shahbaz Sharif after me but he will take time to contest elections, so for the time being, I nominate Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

MR NAWAZ SHARIF, who resigned as Pakistan's prime minister following a historic Supreme Court ruling that barred him from office.

The five-member Supreme Court bench gave its unanimous verdict to disqualify the premier after a corruption probe found disparity between his family's wealth and known sources of income.

Mr Sharif's dismissal - for the third time - can be seen as a setback for democracy in a country which has been ruled by the military for much of its 70-year history and has never seen a prime minister complete a full five-year term.

The armed forces - Pakistan's most powerful and organised institution - has orchestrated coups in the past and also controls the nuclear-armed nation's foreign policy.

"We know very well what the crime of Nawaz Sharif and the Muslim League is. What do we ask for? We ask for civilian supremacy in Pakistan," Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq told a news briefing.

Two members of the six-member investigation team looking into the Sharif family's wealth were from the military's intelligence agencies, which has raised eyebrows. The army has not commented on Mr Sharif's removal, or allegations they were involved. In the past, the army has dismissed claims that it was behind the Supreme Court's push against Mr Sharif.

In 1999, General Pervez Musharraf removed the elder Mr Sharif in a previous stint in power. Mr Shahbaz Sharif was also Punjab's chief minister at the time and was jailed along with his brother, joining him in exile in Saudi Arabia.

Despite the damning investigation and Supreme Court ruling, a transition to Mr Shahbaz Sharif will allow the family to continue its political dynasty for now.

It will also extend Pakistan's historical narrative of civilian governments being weakened in relation to the military, according to Mr Gareth Price, a senior research fellow at London think-tank Chatham House. "It's the end of Nawaz as a political person, but not the end of his family," said Mr Price. "We're kind of back to where we were - everything continues on with civilian governments weakened because of links to corruption."

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 30, 2017, with the headline 'Brother of ousted Pakistan PM likely to succeed him'. Print Edition | Subscribe