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Khaqan Abbasi elected Pakistan’s interim PM, hopes Nawaz Sharif will return

Soon after being elected, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi described Nawaz Sharif as the “real prime minister” of Pakistan and expressed the hope that the PML-N leader would return as the premier.

world Updated: Aug 01, 2017 22:45 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Nawaz Sharif,PML-N party,Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
In this handout photo released by Pakistan's Press Information Department on August 1, 2017, newly elected Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi speaks in Parliament in Islamabad. The Parliament elected the ruling PML-N party loyalist as prime minister days after Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court following a corruption probe. (AFP)

Former premier Nawaz Sharif’s nominee Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was elected as prime minister by Pakistan’s Parliament on Tuesday, days after the PML-N leader was ousted by the Supreme Court.

The special session of the National Assembly was called by President Mamnoon Hussain after the court disqualified Sharif in a landmark ruling in the Panama Papers case for not being honest while declaring his assets.

Abbasi, from the ruling PML-N party, got 221 votes in the 342-member National Assembly or lower house of Parliament, Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq announced. He was later sworn in by the president.

Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan People’s Party bagging 47 votes, former minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad 33 votes and Sahibzada Tariqullah four votes.

A leading businessman and founder of the airblue private airline, Abbasi will serve as a placeholder prime minister till Sharif’s brother, Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, is elected to the National Assembly and can become the premier.

After announcing the results amid sloganeering, the Speaker asked Abbasi to take the seat of the prime minister and address the House.

Abbasi, 58, used his maiden speech to declare Sharif “the prime minister of the people of Pakistan”. He said, “InshaAllah (God willing), one day the real prime minister of this country will come back and sit on this chair.”

Referring to the 45-day time limit on a by-election for Sharif’s parliamentary seat, he added, “I may be here for 45 hours or 45 days. I am the prime minister and I am not here to keep the seat warm, I will do the work of 45 months in 45 days, if I remain here.”

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The former petroleum minister dismissed the corruption allegations against Sharif as baseless. He also said he would ensure rule of law but stopped short of criticising the judiciary, saying legal experts were surprised by the decision to disqualify Sharif and that no one was willing to accept it.

The PML-N has said it will file a petition in the Supreme Court next week, seeking a review of its verdict.

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling last week, the PML-N had agreed on Abbasi as its candidate for interim prime minister.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission has announced that polls will be held on September 17 for the Lahore parliamentary seat that was vacated by Sharif. The PML-N has already decided to field Shehbaz Sharif from the seat.

First Published: Aug 01, 2017 22:45 IST