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Asia

Ousted Nawaz Sharif's brother, Shahbaz, to be next Pakistani PM

Pakistan's ruling party has nominated Shahbaz Sharif as candidate for the premiership. The opposition party leader has derided the choice of replacement for Nawaz Sharif, who was disqualified.

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Pakistan to nominate PM to replace Sharif

Shahbaz Sharif (above photo), chief minister of Pakistan's Punjab province, was chosen on Saturday as a candidate to succeed ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Nawaz Sharif named his brother successor and nominated ex-oil minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as an interim premier in a defiant speech Saturday.

"I support Shahbaz Sharif after me but he will take time to contest elections so for the time being I nominate Shahid Khaqan Abbasi," Sharif said in a televised speech to his party.

The decision was taken by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N party's officials in the capital, Islamabad, Dawn newspaper reported.

The PML-N still has a large majority in parliament and can vote him in as prime minister without aid from other parties, so Shahbaz' appointment to the office is being seen as a foregone conclusion.

Corruption trial

On Friday, Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the Islamic country's Supreme Court in a case related to the Panama Papers that showed three of Sharif's children as having links with offshore companies holding properties in London.

In a historic judgment, a five-judge Supreme Court panel found Sharif guilty of corruption, but not directly in connection with the Panama Papers controversy. The former prime minister and his family have consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Shahbaz Sharif will have to resign from his seat in the Punjab assembly and contest a by-election for the seat left vacant after his elder brother's disqualification. Sharif's party will have to nominate Shahbaz Sharif's successor as Punjab's chief minister.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who was petroleum minister, would serve as interim prime minister until Shahbaz Sharif takes over.

Nawaz and Shahbaz started their political career together in the early 1980s under the tutelage of former military dictator Zia ul-Haq. They have worked closely together ever since, also during their time in exile in Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan Premierminister Nawaz Sharif, Untersuchungsausschuss (Reuters/F. Mahmood)

Nawaz Sharif will continue to play a role as head of his political party

A 'judicial coup'

Nawaz Sharif's disqualification has angered his supporters, who allege that their country's powerful military influenced the judiciary to unseat him.

Read: Panama Papers: Pakistani PM's aide calls for international support

Political observers say the army leadership is very skeptical of Sharif due to his repeated attempts to improve ties with India and enhance trade between the two South Asian nuclear-armed archrivals. Also, a strong civilian government has always been a threat to the military's unchecked power, they say.

Some analysts have dubbed Sharif's disqualification a "judicial coup."

Read: Opinion: A 'judicial coup' against Pakistani PM Sharif

Michael Kugelman of the Wilson Center in Washington noted there was a "pretty strong precedent of the Pakistani judiciary being very active and essentially sending elected officials packing." The expert also said the Panama Papers case was "more about his family" than Sharif himself.

"You have to acknowledge the fact that Nawaz Sharif himself is not really being accused of anything that is against the law," Kugelman said prior to the verdict.

Read: Asma Jahangir: 'Panama Papers report aimed at ousting PM Sharif'

Opposition party derides choice

Parliamentary elections are due in Pakistan next year, and Sharif's party is hoping for a resounding victory despite the fact that the Sharif family will continue to be investigated by the National Accountability Bureau.

In a tweet, Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz said her father would "return with greater force," and she asked her party to "stay strong."

Opposition leader Imran Khan, who heads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice, PTI) party, derided the choice and is already demanding an early vote.

Khan compared the country's tradition of political dynasties to "a form of monarchy."

"Political parties don't have democracy in them. They are family parties ... Actually, it's like a form of monarchy," the former cricket star told Reuters in an interview.

Three-time prime minister Sharif could never complete his democratic tenure. He was first ousted on corruption charges in the early 1990s, and later in a military coup in 1999. Most civilian prime ministers in Pakistan have never completed their constitutional term.

The United States and the European Union have urged a smooth democratic transition in the South Asian country.

But Khalid Hameed Farooqi, a Brussels-based Pakistani journalist who covers diplomatic affairs, told DW that Sharif's ouster has reflected negatively on Pakistan.

"Sharif has a good reputation in the European Union. His departure would have an adverse effect on Pakistan's foreign relations," said Farooqi.

Watch video 01:29

Sharif steps down after Supreme Court ruling

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