Ousted Pak PM names brother as successor | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 30, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:36 AM, July 30, 2017

Ousted Pak PM names brother as successor

Nominates loyalist as interim leader; says his 'conscience is clear'

Pakistan's ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif named his brother Shahbaz, the chief minister of Punjab province, as his successor and nominated ex-oil minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as an interim premier in a defiant speech yesterday.

The announcement charts a way forward for Pakistan after the Supreme Court ousted Sharif Friday following an investigation into corruption allegations against him and his family, bringing to an unceremonious end his historic third term in power and briefly plunging the country into political uncertainty.

"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 in a televised speech to his party.

The younger Sharif holds only a provincial seat, so must be elected to the national assembly before becoming the new prime minister.

Earlier yesterday the Election Commission of Pakistan confirmed fresh elections would be held in Nawaz Sharif's former constituency.

Abbasi is set to be rubber-stamped as placeholder in a parliamentary vote, with Sharif's ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz commanding a majority in the 342-seat house.

The opposition could also field a candidate for the premiership, though the nominee has little chance of getting sufficient votes.      

Nawaz Sharif became 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 decision sent his political opposition into the streets handing out sweets and beating drums in celebration.

But Pakistanis were divided on whether it set the country's democratic progress back, with supporters, commentators and some corners of the country's press slamming the ruling as a "judicial coup".

The court said in its judgement that it was disqualifying Sharif for failing to disclose his monthly salary of 10,000 dirhams ($2,700) 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 his failure to disclose its existence meant he was not "honest" -- a requirement for Pakistani politicians under the country's Constitution.

He expressed disbelief over the grounds for his dismissal, but resolved to continue struggling for the supremacy of the Constitution and rule of law in the country, reported Dawn.

"I still do not understand the grounds for my dismissal," Nawaz Sharif said during a parliamentary committee meeting. "I am only content that I was not disqualified on the grounds of alleged corruption."

"When I never took a salary, what would I declare?" he asked, referring to the Supreme Court judgement that led to his ouster.

The joint investigation team report examined by the SC during the course of the Panamagate hearings revealed that Nawaz Sharif had not declared on his nomination papers for the 2013 General Election the income drawn from the Dubai-based company between Aug 7, 2006 and April 20, 2014.

"My conscience is clear," he asserted in his address to his party men. "If I had done something wrong; or taken something from this country that was not mine, I would have felt the guilt myself," he said.

"Is it only my family that should be held accountable? he asked.

Opposition leader Imran Khan, who has spearheadead the push against Sharif, hailed the verdict as ushering in a new dawn for Pakistan.

But some observers slammed it as "political" and a "technicality", with rights campaigner and lawyer Asma Jahangir telling private Geo television late Friday that the powerful military was using the courts to destabilise democracy.

The military had an antagonistic relationship with Sharif, who had made several overtures to improve relations with nuclear arch-rival India.

Sharif's link to the UAE company was exposed as part of an investigation into corruption allegations against his family that erupted as a result of 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.

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