PML-N to consider prime minister after Sharif removal

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz to choose next party leader after Supreme Court disqualified Nawaz Sharif over corruption.

Opposition activists celebrate the Supreme Court's decision against Nawaz Sharif [AFP]

Politicians from Pakistan’s ruling political party will meet to decide the country’s next prime minister after Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court.

Leader of the House in the Senate, Raja Zafar-ul-Haqaq, said Sharif would attend Saturday’s meeting of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, in which members will choose a new party leader who will become prime minister.

A day earlier, Pakistan was sent into turmoil as Sharif stepped down following a court verdict, which ruled he could no longer hold office on the grounds of his alleged corruption.

Haq, a PML-N member, dismissed the charge as a “trivial allegation”.

Friday’s landmark ruling followed months of hearings in a case instigated by the Panama Papers leaks, related to alleged corruption during Nawaz’s previous two terms in office.

Pakistani media reported that the party was planning to bring in a provisional prime minister for a few weeks, before electing Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, to the post.

READ MORE: What’s next for Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif?

Shahbaz, the chief minister of Punjab, will have to step down from his post and be elected to the National Assembly before being eligible to become prime minister, which could take 45 days. 

“Sources say there would not be any change in the federal cabinet once the new prime minister takes over, though some portfolios might be reshuffled,” The Express Tribune reported.

Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from the capital Islamabad, said that if Nawaz decides to bring his younger brother to the post, an ongoing investigation looking into Shahbaz’s assets could also expose him. 

The allegations against Nawaz centred around the ownership of four apartments in London’s posh Park Lane neighbourhood.

In 2016, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists leaked 11.5 million documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, dubbed the Panama Papers. 

Several documents included in the leak showed three of Nawaz’s children – Hussain, Hasan and Maryam – owned at least three off-shore companies registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The documents showed that these companies had engaged in deals worth $25m.

Crucially, one of the documents also revealed that the companies had been involved in a $13.2m mortgage involving the London properties as collateral, the first time the Sharif family’s ownership of the apartments was proven on paper.

Political turmoil

The Supreme Court judges on Friday asked Mamnoon Hussain, the country’s figurehead president, to ensure the continuation of the democratic process.

“The ultimate responsibility for where we are today, which is potentially enormous political instability, is in the prime minister’s camp,” Pakistani political analyst, Mosharraf Zaidi, told Al Jazeera.

“The minimum that we expect from elected leaders is to answer important questions in the public domain, and that is very much the business of ordinary Pakistanis. He [Nawaz] failed to answer those questions.”

Al Jazeera’s Hyder said: “What the people don’t want is selective accountability.”

“Most of the reaction coming out of the country has been positive,” he said. “The Pakistani people want all the politicians, bureaucrats, judges, generals and everybody across the board to be accountable, so there has been no violent reaction on the streets.”

No democratically elected prime minister in Pakistan’s history has completed a full five-year term.

Nawaz’s first two stints in power in the 1990s were both cut short; he was unseated in a military coup by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999.

Other prime ministers have been overthrown in two previous coups in 1958 and 1977, by the courts or by motions of no-confidence within the parliament.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies