Pakistan’s democratic process continues, parliament elects interim PM after Sharif ouster

Irshad Salim — Pakistan’s parliament on Tuesday elected Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as interim prime minister after his predecessor, Nawaz Sharif, was removed amid nagging corruption allegations.

The 342-member National Assembly elected Abbasi, a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, in Islamabad with 221 votes backed by Karachi-based MQM-Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkwa’s JUI-F, Balochistan’s National Party and several others.

“Within four days, we have seen the return of the country onto the tracks of democracy. Nothing was derailed,” he said in the parliament, Al Jazeera reported. “Whether I am here for 45 hours or 45 days, I am the prime minister of this country, and I have come here to get work done, not to keep the seat warm.”

Abbasi termed the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Panamagate case “unprecedented”, saying that although the party was blind-sided by the judgement, “we accepted it as it was”.

“Within four days, the democratic process is back on track. There were no defections. There was no dissension in our ranks,” Abbasi said dispelling rumors in the media – both local and international that all was not so well in Pakistan’s project democracy.

Abbasi, 58, will hold the post until Nawaz’s younger brother Shahbaz takes over, pending an election to the National Assembly in September.

Shahbaz, who has the Pakistan Muslim League’s support, is currently the chief minister of Punjab province. Abbasi previously served as the elder Sharif’s petroleum minister.

On Friday, the country’s Supreme Court disqualified Nawaz, a three-time prime minister, from holding public office. It was the latest development in a 15-month corruption investigation into claims that he failed to detail in a financial disclosure statement that his family owned offshore companies and assets.

Nawaz resigned Friday but has denied wrongdoing.

In a related note, more than 94 percent of Pakistani expats polled in Saudi Arabia said no when asked whether they thought Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification is bad for democracy. Poll sampling of Pak expats were of non-party affiliated individuals during Jul 31-Aug 1, 2017.

The Pakistani government’s watchdog arm also announced Monday its intent to open cases against Nawaz, 67, members of his family and his finance minister Ishaq Dar. The National Accountability Bureau said it would look into companies and luxury London apartments owned by the Sharif family.

Abbasi profile

Wxpress Tribune adds: Abbasi’s entry into politics was accidental. The 58-year old politician hailing from Murree’s Abbasi family was destined to become a businessman to look after the family’s business interests. It was only after Shahid’s father Khaqan Abbasi, who was a federal minister in General Ziaul Haq’s cabinet, died in April 1988 in the infamous Ojhri camp incident in Rawalpindi that Shahid had to enter into politics fortuitously.

He contested elections from NA-50 Murree and became an MNA in 1988 after his father’s demise. He then joined Islami Jamhori Ittehad (IJI). Abbasi again won from the platform of IJI in 1990. In 1993, when Pakistan Muslim League emerged under Sharif’s leadership (which later became PML-Nawaz) Abbasi won from PML’s forum. He has won from the NA seat six times. (1988, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2008, 2013) However, he lost to PPP’s Murtaza Satti in the 2002 general elections. Abbasi is a graduate of University of California and holds a master’s degree from George Washington University.

Prior to being nominated for interim PM by the PML-N leadership, Abbasi was petroleum minister. He is also a businessman who is a co-owner of private airline Airblue. Abbasi remained Chairman PIA during Nawaz’s previous federal government in 1997. He is regarded as an aviation expert. His stint as petroleum minister was marred by corruption allegations related to irregular award of LNG contracts.

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