Pakistan’s Punjab province Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif is likely to be made Prime Minister after his brother Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court over the Panama Papers scandal, sources in the PML-N party said today.
Shehbaz, 65, the current chief minister of Punjab, is the natural choice for the top post, sources in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party said.
“He is an untiring worker, hard task master, loyal to his brother and also in the good books of the powerful establishment,” a source said.
However, he cannot immediately replace his brother as he is not a member of the National Assembly. In order to become the Prime Minister, he would first have to be elected to Parliament.
Hence, an interim Prime Minister would have to be chosen from among the confidants of Nawaz. The interim premier will resign once Shehbaz is elected to the National Assembly.
This would not be the first time such an arrangement would be worked out.
During former military ruler Pervez Musharraf’s time, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was appointed as interim Prime Minister until Shaukat Aziz, who was nominated by Musharraf, got elected by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q).
Another problem with Shehbaz being promoted to become Prime Minister is that a suitable replacement as Chief Minister of the Punjab province, which is a key for any party to rule Pakistan, needs to be named.
Sources said that there was no front-runner for the top job in the province. However, Shehbaz’s son Hamza could be among the contenders for the chief minister’s post.
Many names are being discussed to become prime minister for the interim period, including former defence minister Khawaja Asif, former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former planning minister Ahsan Iqbal and speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq, sources said.
“The final choice is with Nawaz Sharif. He will nominate his temporary or permanent successor and everyone would accept it,” the source said.
Sharif stepped down after the Supreme Court disqualified him for failing to declare “receivable” salary from a UAE-based company of his son in his 2013 nomination paper. The court termed the salary which was not paid to Sharif as an “asset”.