Sharif Loyalist Wins Vote for Interim Pakistan Prime Minister

Pakistani lawmakers chose Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the interim prime minister to replace deposed leader Nawaz Sharif, settling political uncertainty caused by a Supreme Court decision last week that forced the former premier to resign.

Abbasi, 58, who is considered a die-hard Sharif loyalist after serving in his cabinet as the petroleum minister, won 221 votes out of 305 polled by members of 342-seat National Assembly, according to Speaker Ayaz Sadiq. His closest rival Naveed Qamar backed by opposition Pakistan Peoples Party got 47 votes in Tuesday’s ballot.

Though Abbasi said on Monday he’ll continue Sharif’s policies, he will quit in about 45 days to make way for Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of ex-premier, according to a plan announced over the weekend by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party. The younger Sharif, who needs to quit his current post of Chief Minister of Punjab province and win an election to enter the National Assembly, will ensure the government completes its five-year term in June. The by-election on the seat left vacant after Sharif’s disqualification will be held on September 17, according to the country’s election commission.

Nawaz “will manage to retain his clout and will keep pulling strings” from behind the scene, said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Lahore-based political analyst.

Court Ruling

The elder Sharif was barred from office on Friday in an unprecedented ruling from the nation’s top court, which found he had not been “honest” in his company disclosures, becoming the second world leader to be felled by last year’s so-called Panama Papers leak. His removal was seen as a set back to the government’s economic revival plan on the back of International Monetary Fund loan in 2013. Pakistan’s economy has been growing at an annual rate of above 4 percent since 2014 and its stock market was elevated to emerging markets in June.

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Pakistan’s people have rejected the court ruling of sacking Sharif, who is not a corrupt leader, Abbasi said, while speaking to lawmakers after the ballot.

The benchmark stock index gained for a second day after falling some 12 percent from its peak after the Supreme Court sought an investigation into Sharif’s finances, dragging valuations to the lowest since October.

Abbasi, an electrical engineer who got his master’s degree from the George Washington University in 1985, led efforts to import liquefied petroleum gas — mainly from Qatar — to end energy shortages, according to state-run Associated Press of Pakistan. The opposition group led by former cricket star Imran Khan has vowed to take Abbasi to court for alleged corruption in LNG contracts. Abbasi denies wrongdoing.

No prime minister in Pakistan has completed a five-year term since parliamentary democracy was introduced here under the constitution in 1971 and its powerful military ruled for much of its 70-year history.