Sacked PM Sharif’s brother to continue ‘political dynasty’

Sacked prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s sibling will be put forward for next year’s election, despite the family’s finances leading to PM’s downfall

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 July, 2017, 11:25pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 July, 2017, 11:25pm

Pakistan’s ruling party will nominate Punjab’s Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif as prime minister before elections next year, after his older brother resigned from the post following a historic ­Supreme Court ruling on Friday that barred him from office.

Shahbaz 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.

The party’s top leadership ­including elder Sharif proposed former Petroleum Minister ­Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as a 45-day interim premier, a decision that was endorsed by party lawmakers late last night.

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 investigation found disparity between his ­family’s wealth and known sources of income.

The papers revealed that Sharif’s three adult children – sons Hassan and Hussain and daughter Maryam – owned offshore companies incorporated in Panama and the British Virgin Islands and properties in London.

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 organised institution – has orchestrated coups in the past and controls the nuclear-armed nation’s foreign policy. Two 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.

Hundreds of supporters of Sharif rallied in the capital against his disqualification by the country’s highest court.

The demonstrators marched on a main road in Islamabad and chanted slogans in favour of Sharif before peacefully dispersing.

His supporters have held similar small rallies in the eastern city of Lahore from where he won the 2013 parliamentary elections.

The rally also came after ­opposition leader Imran Khan asked his supporters to reach ­Islamabad today to celebrate ­Sharif’s ­removal. Khan had led dozens of protest rallies in recent years to pressure Sharif to resign on allegation of corruption.

A transition to Shahbaz 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, senior research fellow at Chatham House think thank.

“It’s the end of Nawaz as a political person, but not the end of his family,” he said. “We’re kind of back to where we were – everything continues on with civilian governments weakened because of links to corruption.”

Additional reporting by Kyodo, Associated Press