Parliament on Tuesday elected ex-oil minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as prime minister of Pakistan, days after former premier Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court.
Abbasi is seen by the ruling party as a placeholder for Sharif’s designated successor, his younger brother Shahbaz, who must first secure election to the 342-member National Assembly. Abbasi, nominated by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), secured 221 votes, Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq announced on live television. He will be sworn in later Tuesday.
“I give the floor to the new prime minister of Pakistan,” Sadiq said as Abbasi took his place in the premier’s seat. “I am thankful to all those who took part in this democratic process,” Abbasi said. “Those who were in favor, those who opposed me. This is the procedure in democracy. And I am also thankful to PMLN who nominated me for this post. Of all these, I am most thankful to Nawaz Sharif.”
Shabhaz Sharif, currently chief minister of Punjab province, plans to enter Parliament by contesting the seat left vacant by his elder sibling before eventually taking over the premiership. The Constitution requires a candidate for prime minister to win a majority from the National Assembly, the Lower House of Parliament.
Three opposition candidates also submitted nomination papers to take part in the vote. But Abbasi, a long-time Sharif loyalist, won easily as the PMLN commands a majority in Parliament.
Nawaz Sharif was the 15th prime minister in Pakistan’s 70-year history—roughly half of which was spent under military rule—to be ousted before completing a full term. The top court sacked him on Friday after an investigation into corruption allegations against him and his family, bringing his historic third term in power to an unceremonious end and briefly plunging the nation into political instability.
Abbasi is the former federal minister for petroleum and natural resources, and a businessman who launched the country’s most successful private airline, Air Blue. Educated in the U.S. at George Washington University, he worked in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia as an electrical engineer before joining politics and being elected to the National Assembly six times.
He was arrested after the 1999 military coup led by General Pervez Musharraf, which ended Nawaz Sharif’s second term as P.M., and imprisoned for two years before being released.
During his inaugural speech to Parliament, he vowed to undertake education reform and ban automatic weapons for individuals. He also vowed to act against anyone found to be a tax evader, saying lawmakers must take the lead in paying taxes to strengthen Pakistan.