Shehbaz Sharif set to become next Pakistan PM after Imran Khan's exit

S7 News

Shehbaz, the younger brother of former three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, over the years has earned the reputation of a matter-of-fact person who makes no bones while performing onerous tasks.

The joint opposition in Pakistan -- a rainbow of socialist, liberal and radically religious parties – has nominated Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif (70) for the post of prime minister.

The nomination came after the unceremonious ouster of Imran Khan, who has called on his supporters to join him in the street in protest against what he called the "imported government."

Khan's successor will be elected in the National Assembly on Monday and a special session has been summoned for that. In the house of 342, the winner would need 172 votes to become the new prime minister.

Shehbaz is likely to be elected the new leader of the house.

However, it will be a real challenge for him to shepherd the motley herd that also includes four independent candidates and allow Parliament to complete its five-year term that will end in August next year.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chair Asif Ali Zardari had proposed Shehbaz's name for the prime minister’s post in a joint opposition meeting. Zardari's son Bilawal Bhutto is likely to be appointed as the new foreign minister.

Before filing his nomination, Shehbaz offered "special thanks" to those who stood up "for the Constitution!"

"I don't want to go back to the bitterness of the past. We want to forget and move forward. We will not avenge the wrongs or mete out injustice; we will not send people to jail for no reason; law and justice will take its course," he said while addressing the National Assembly early Sunday.

Ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan, still full of bravado, meanwhile, reiterated his 'foreign conspiracy' claim and said the "freedom struggle begins today".

"Pakistan became an independent state in 1947, but the freedom struggle begins again today against a foreign conspiracy of regime change. It is always the people of the country who defend their sovereignty & democracy," Khan tweeted.

Meanwhile, a petition has been filed in the Islamabad High Court seeking to prevent Khan and his former ministers from leaving the country. The court will hear the petition on Monday.

The change of government in Pakistan after the exit of hawkish Imran Khan and his likely replacement by hard-core realist Shehbaz Sharif may provide a little window of opportunity for the two neighbouring countries to reset their nearly frozen bilateral ties.

Shehbaz, the younger brother of former three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, over the years has earned the reputation of a matter-of-fact person who makes no bones while performing onerous tasks. His realism is often rancorous for friends and foes alike. When a Geo News TV anchor asked him a few days ago about terms of ties with the US under his leadership, Shehbaz responded: "Beggars cannot be choosers” – a remark that was instantly juxtaposed by detractors with Khan's "honour in foreign policy" paradigm.

A man who can work across the aisles in Parliament as well as connect with the powerful military establishment with equal ease, can Shehbaz's rise to power help untangle the Indo-Pak puzzle?

Samiullah Khan, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker and close aid of Shehbaz, told PTI that his leader would chalk out a new policy.

"Pakistan under Shehbaz will come up with a new policy towards India. Basically, the Imran Khan regime had a weak policy, which allowed India to revoke the special status of Kashmir," said Samiullah.

The main reason for hope is that the new prime minister should be seen as a continuation of the line Nawaz Sharif has taken thus far; Nawaz still takes all political decisions of the PML-N, and his chemistry with Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an open secret.


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