Pakistan’s ruling party will nominate Punjab’s Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif as prime minister ahead of elections next year, after his older brother resigned from the post following a historic Supreme Court ruling on Friday that barred him from office.
Shehbaz Sharif, 65, will step down from his current position heading the province which is the family’s heartland and vote bank, to contest Nawaz Sharif’s vacated National Assembly seat, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq said by phone. The party will nominate a candidate for a 45-day interim premier later on Saturday, Haq said.
The ruling party is moving fast to quell the political turmoil following Nawaz Sharif’s ousting, the second world leader to be felled by last year’s so-called Panama Papers leak. 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.
Nawaz Sharif’s dismissal — for the third time — can also 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 — which is Pakistan’s most powerful and organized institution — has orchestrated coups in the past and controls the nuclear-armed nation’s foreign policy. Two members of the six member investigation team looking into the Sharif family’s wealth were drawn from the military’s intelligence agencies, which has raised eyebrows.
In 1999, General Pervez Musharraf removed the elder Sharif in a previous stint in power. Shehbaz Sharif was also Punjab’s chief minister at the time and was jailed along with his brother and joined him when exiled in Saudi Arabia.
Despite the damning investigation and Supreme Court ruling, a transition to Shehbaz 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 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 Price. “We’re kind of back to where we were — everything continues on with civilian governments weakened because of links to corruption.”
— With assistance by Iain Marlow