By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Pakistan’s deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has named his brother, Shahbaz, as his successor and nominated former Oil Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as an interim premier.
“I support Shahbaz Sharif after me, but he will take time to contest elections, so for the time being I nominate Shahid Khaqan Abbasi,” Sharif said on July 29 in a televised speech to his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
The move comes following the resignation of Sharif on July 28 that was announced shortly after the country’s Supreme Court ordered his removal from office in connection with corruption charges stemming from the Panama Papers leak in 2016.
Abbasi is set to be rubber-stamped as placeholder in a parliamentary vote, with the ruling PML-N party holding a strong majority in the 342-seat legislature. Abbasi, 58, is seen as a staunch Sharif loyalist. It was not immediately clear when the vote would take place.
The interim leader would be in power for at least 45 days until Shahbaz Sharif steps down as the head of the Punjab government and contests a by-election to the National Assembly.
Shahbaz Sharif, 65, has been in charge of Punjab since 2008. He has built a reputation as a competent administrator and has so far been unscathed by the corruption allegations engulfing his brother’s family.
Opposition leader Imran Khan, who spearheaded the corruption complaint against Sharif, condemned the ousted premier’s choice of his brother to eventually succeed him.
Sharif “is insulting the nation’s intelligence” and “making a mockery of democracy” by nominating his brother, Khan tweeted on July 29.
The Supreme Court court ruling came immediately after an investigative panel alleged that Sharif’s family could not account for what it said was vast wealth in offshore companies.
Sharif has denied any wrongdoing.
The five-judge panel’s unanimous decision, issued amid tight security in the capital, Islamabad, and Sharif’s immediate resignation has plunged the nuclear-armed nation into a political crisis.
Raja Zafarul Haq, a top leader of Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, said that the deposed prime minister will attend the meeting on July 29.
Geo TV reported that Sharif recommended his brother as his replacement as prime minister in a meeting held with senior party leaders after the Supreme Court’s verdict.
Among possible allies to replace Sharif in the short term are members of his outgoing cabinet, including Defense Minister Asif Khawaja and Petroleum Minister Shahid Abbasi.
If elected, the interim leader would be in power for at least 45 days until Shehbaz steps down as the head of the Punjab government and contests a by-election to the National Assembly.
Shahbaz Sharif, 65, has been in charge of Punjab since 2008. He has built a reputation as a competent administrator.
Pakistani media report that Shahbaz has in recent years presented his country at several international forums, including the United Nations.
No prime minister has completed a full term in power in Pakistan since the country gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
Sharif, 67, is among the major political casualties of the Panama Papers leaks that brought offshore finance under the spotlight.
Documents from the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm that were made public in April 2016 revealed that three of Sharif’s four children owned offshore companies and assets not shown on his family’s wealth statement.
Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz at the time acknowledged owning offshore companies but insisted they used legal money to set up businesses abroad.
In 2016, Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson stepped down amid public outrage that his family had sheltered money offshore.
One of Sharif’s two previous stints as prime minister was cut short by a military coup in 1999.
He returned from exile to win a convincing victory in parliamentary elections in 2013.