ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s lawmakers will elect a new prime minister on Tuesday to replace ousted leader Nawaz Sharif, with ruling party stalwart Shahid Khaqan Abbasi expected to become interim leader until Sharif’s own brother is eligible.
The confirmation from parliament came after Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain convened a special session after Sharif decided to put forward his ally Abbasi as interim leader and named his brother Shahbaz, 65, as long-term successor.
Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party holds a majority with 188 seats in the 342-member parliament, so it should be able to swiftly install its choice, barring any defections from its own ranks.
A quick handover could ease the political upheaval sparked by a Supreme Court decision on Friday to disqualify Sharif for not declaring a source of income. The court also ordered a criminal investigation into him and his family.
Abbasi on Sunday vowed to continue Sharif’s work.
“I hope that God will help me in furthering Nawaz Sharif’s policies,” Abbasi told reporters in Islamabad, adding to speculation that Sharif will continue to run the show behind the scenes.
The turmoil and the premature end to Sharif’s third stint in power has also raised questions about Pakistan’s democracy. No prime minister has completed a full term in power since the country gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
“We wanted to make sure there is a smooth transfer of power and no constitutional crisis,” said Miftah Ismail, a senior PML-N official and Sharif ally.
On Sunday evening, thousands of supporters of opposition politician Imran Khan held a celebration rally in Islamabad, waving flags and cheering Sharif’s ouster.
Khan, who spearheaded a campaign for the Supreme Court case that removed Sharif, has said he expects to win the next general elections in 2018.
Meanwhile, Sharif loyalists incensed by his ouster cheered his arrival in the hill town of Murree.