Pakistan's deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has nominated his brother to be his successor and a nominee to contest the 2018 general elections and his close ally to be interim premier, as hundreds of supporters of ousted Sharif held a demonstration in the capital Islamabad against a Supreme Court decision that disqualified him on corruption charges.
“I have quit my office, so someone has to take it, and after a lot of consultations... Shahbaz Sharif is nominated,” Sharif said during a speech to his ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), on Saturday, a day after his office announced that he was resigning shortly after the Supreme Court issued a verdict, disqualifying him earlier in the day.
Pakistan’s top court alleged that 67-year-old Sharif and his family had property and accounts overseas, which they hid from the tax authorities. It also accused Sharif of refusing to resign from the seat following the allegations. Sharif has persistently rejected the corruption charges leveled against him, criticizing the verdict.
Shahbaz Sharif, 65, is currently the chief minister of the vast Punjab province, which accounts for more than half of Pakistan’s 190-million-strong population, and cannot become premier until he first becomes a lawmaker by winning a parliamentary by-election.
Nawaz Sharif also said he would like his close ally Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to be Pakistan’s interim prime minister and to fill the vacuum. Abbasi, 58, was minister of petroleum and natural resources in the third Sharif ministry from June 2013 until Friday. He also has the strong support of the ruling party.
Meanwhile, pro-Sharif protesters marched on a key road in the capital and chanted slogans in favor of the deposed prime minister, before peacefully dispersing. Sharif’s supporters also staged similar small demonstrations in the eastern city of Lahore, where he won the 2013 parliamentary elections.
Sharif’s ouster has renewed concerns over Pakistan’s democracy after a member of the PML-N party suggested that elements within the powerful military had influenced the high court’s ruling against him.
The opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, led by Imran Khan, has welcomed the Supreme Court ruling as a sign of progress and greater accountability in the country.