Pakistan’s Ruling Party Picks Interim Successor for Ousted PM Sharif

Pakistan’s ruling party has appointed an interim chief executive of the country, raising opposition complaints, a day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court for concealing assets.

Sharif, 67, chaired an emergency meeting Saturday of his Pakistan Muslim League-N party in Islamabad, where leaders selected former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as his successor for a short term of 45 days. Abbasi still must pass a vote of confidence by the parliament before assuming office.

Party leaders also decided at the meeting that Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, will run in a parliamentary election for the seat vacated by the ousted prime minister so he could become a member of the national parliament and potentially take over as permanent prime minister of Pakistan, officials announced.

Under election rules and regulations, the by-election process takes 45 days to complete, and that is when Abbasi would step down, making way for the younger Sharif to take over as prime minister.

Shahbaz Sharif, 65, is currently the chief minister of Pakistan’s most populous province of Punjab.

Questioning dismissal

While addressing Saturday’s party meeting, the deposed prime minister again denied any wrongdoing and expressed his disappointment over his disqualification by the court.

“I still do not understand the grounds for my dismissal,” Sharif said.

In his nationally televised speech Saturday he again asserted that charges against him and his family were baseless

The Supreme Court, in its landmark verdict on Friday, also ordered a criminal investigation into Sharif and his children.

The corruption case against Sharif stemmed from leaked financial documents, known as Panama Papers, that also listed three children of the Pakistani leader as holders of offshore accounts and posh London property.

Imran Khan comments

The opposition political party of cricket-star-turned politician Imran Khan has been leading the legal effort against Sharif. He quickly reacted to Saturday’s comments by the deposed premier.

By nominating his brother for the office of the prime minister, Sharif “is insulting the nation’s intelligence and making mockery of democracy,” Khan said in a Twitter post. The opposition politician added that the Supreme Court also has directed anti-corruption authorities to launch an investigation into Shahbaz Sharif.

The Pakistani government completes its mandatory five-year constitutional term in June 2018 and the next national elections are due later that year.

The political turmoil has hit the nuclear-armed nation at a time when Pakistan’s relations with the United States have worsened over allegations Islamabad is not doing enough to stop militant attacks in neighboring Afghanistan. Additionally, Pakistan’s political and military tensions with rival India have also worsened in recent months.

The political uncertainty grips Pakistan even though it is experiencing steady economic growth.

Opposition parties, however, are celebrating Sharif’s removal from office, saying the court ruling has undone the widespread belief in Pakistan that powerful people could not be held accountable.