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Shahbaz Sharif sworn in as Pakistan's new prime minister

April 11, 2022

Shahbaz Sharif is the younger brother of Nawaz Sharif, who was prime minister three times before. His victory was secured when members of the opposition party of ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan resigned.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif
Shahbaz Sharif was elected after a week of political turmoilImage: National Assembly of Pakistan/AP/picture alliance

Shahbaz Sharif was sworn in as Pakistan's new prime minister on Monday, following a no-confidence vote ousting Imran Khan.

Sharif was elected by the country's parliament earlier in the day. He was the sole candidate after only other rival — Khan loyalist Shah Mahmood Qureshi — withdrew and resigned his seat.

What direction might the new PM take?

The new premier announced a series of populist measures, including a new minimum wage of 25,000 rupees (some €124 or $135). He also promised pay rises for civil servants and development projects for rural areas.

Sharif urged better relations with neighbor India, while stressing that a solution still needed to be found for Kashmir — the territory at the heart of decades of dispute between the two nuclear powers. 

He also promised to tackle an economic slump that has seen the rupee at an all-time low, and a major hike in interest rates.

"It's a victory of righteousness, and evil has been defeated," Sharif said in his maiden speech as premier, underlining the acrimonious political battle that culminated in his election.

Sharif, 70, was the favorite to win following the country's weeklong constitutional crisis. He is the younger brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who served three times in the role.

Sharif also called for better relations with the US upon his selection as prime minister. Sharif's remarks came as the US Department of State denied accusations of interference in Pakistan's internal affairs following accusations by ousted prime minister Khan.

What can be expected from Shahbaz Sharif?

What happened in parliament?

The lower house of parliament convened Monday afternoon to select Pakistan's prime minister, following Sunday's no-confidence vote, which removed former Prime Minister Imran Khan from power.

Shahbaz Sharif led the united opposition movement to force the ouster of Khan, a former cricket star who alleged a Washington-driven plot to topple him. The US has denied Khan's allegations.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Khan's party, submitted the former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi as its candidate to replace Khan as prime minister.

Members of the party resigned en masse when Qureshi was not named new prime minister. Their resignations will require the need for elections for their seats.

Supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of dismissed Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan,wave party flags as take part in a rally in his support in Karachi on April 10, 2022.
Supporters of Khan and his PTI party held large rallies in Karachi on Sunday, protesting the vote of no-confidence against himImage: Rizwan Tabassum/Getty Images/AFP

Sharif was the only contender following the walkout of the more than 100 members of parliament from Khan's party and was elected with 174 votes.

Following his win, Sharif said Pakistan is headed for the largest budget and trade deficit in its history.

Who is Shahbaz Sharif?

Shahbaz Sharif's brother Nawaz was banned from holding public office in 2017 by Pakistan's Supreme Court. He subsequently left the country for medical treatment after serving only a few months of a 10-year jail sentence on corruption charges.

Pakistan's National Accountability Bureau seized almost two dozen properties from Shahbaz Sharif and his son Hamza, accusing them of money laundering, in 2019.

In September 2020 he was arrested and held for six months but released on bail while awaiting trial, which is still pending.

How has Khan reacted since his ouster?

After the no-confidence vote, Khan remained defiant, writing on Twitter, "The freedom struggle begins again today against a foreign conspiracy of regime change." 

He later showed pictures of his supporters in the streets who he said were out on the streets "rejecting the imported government led by crooks."

Thousands demonstrated and blocked roads in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, chanting anti-US slogans and against opposition parties.

What is the larger context of the current political tumult?

No prime minister has completed a term in office since Pakistan became an independent nation in 1947. However, Khan became the first to be removed by a no-confidence vote.

Pakistan's PM ousted from power

Pakistan's military has dominated the nuclear-armed nation's politics for more than half of the nearly 75 years since independence.

In 2018, when Khan was elected, the military establishment approved.

The military's approval of Khan waned though with his appointment of a military intelligence chief and economic woes that saw the largest interest rate hikes in decades last week.

rc, ar/fb (AFP, Reuters)