Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is Pakistan’s new prime minister
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a close ally of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has been elected by the country’s parliament to replace the disqualified premier.
The speaker of Pakistan’s lower house of parliament said on Tuesday that 221 lawmakers in the 342-member chamber voted in Abbasi’s favor to elect him as the new prime minister.
Ayaz Sadiq said in a televised speech that Abbasi “has been declared to be elected as the prime minister of Pakistan.” The announcement was made as lawmakers chanted slogans in favor of Abbasi, a lawmaker from the ruling Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party. His close rival Syed Naveed Qamar from the opposition Pakistan People’s Party got 47 votes.
Abbasi, a seasoned politician and a former oil minister, is from Punjab, the most populous state of Pakistan and home to most famous politicians, including Sharif, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court on Friday over allegations of concealing his wealth.
Many expect Abbasi to act as a placeholder for the Sharif’s family in the government as experts say the prime minister post, held by Nawaz for three terms, would finally go to his brother Shahbaz, who should first secure election to the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, to become eligible for the position.
Shahbaz is planning to contest the vacant seat of his elder sibling in the future elections in Punjab. He is currently chief minister of the state, where some 60 percent of Pakistan’s population lives.
Shahbaz is mostly unscathed by allegations of corruption leveled against Sharif family and enjoys a popularity for passionate outbursts, using evolutionary poetry in speeches and being workaholic.
Abbasi’s victory in the National Assembly vote was quite easy, as the PML-N dominates the chamber. In a speech after the vote, he hailed all who contributed to the election, expressing his special gratitude to Nawaz, whom he said would one day return to the chamber.
“I am thankful to all those who took part in this democratic process,” Abbasi said, adding, “Those who were in favour, those who opposed me. This is the procedure in democracy. And I am also thankful to PML-N who nominated me for this post. Of all these, I am most thankful to Nawaz Sharif.”
In his speech, he also vowed to be tough on tax evasion, urging all Pakistanis to pay their taxes. He said it was a must for the rich to help Pakistan improve its finances through paying their taxes. He also promised to improve health and education system and to ensure the rule of law.
Abbasi is a graduate of George Washington University in the United States. He worked in the US and in Saudi Arabia, where Sharif family enjoys a great deal of support, before joining the PML-N. He has been elected to the National Assembly six times and has served as federal minister for petroleum and natural resources. He is also a successful businessman and owns a major Pakistani private airline. Unlike Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif who went to exile after a 1999 military coup, Abbasi was arrested and imprisoned for two years at the time.