Shahid Khaqan Abbasi poised to be elected as new prime minister of Pakistan
Parliament was set to elect a new prime minister on Tuesday, after the Supreme Court ousted Nawaz Sharif following an investigation into corruption allegations against his family.
The ruling party named Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz as his successor over the weekend, but he holds only a provincial seat, so must first enter Parliament by contesting the seat left vacant by his elder sibling. In the meantime Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) has nominated ex-oil minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as interim 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 have also applied. Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and his opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, who led the campaign against Sharif, have nominated Awami Muslim League head Sheikh Rashid Ahmed as their candidate. But Abbasi, a long-time Sharif loyalist, is expected to win the vote easily as the PMLN 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 on 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 nation into political instability.
The court said in its judgment that it was disqualifying Sharif for failing to disclose his monthly salary of 10,000 dirhams 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 Constitution.
Sharif’s link to the U.A.E. 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 Hassan and Hussain.
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 PMLN 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.