Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif named his brother Shahbaz, the chief minister of Punjab province, as his successor and nominated ex-oil minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as an interim premier in a defiant speech on 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 announcement came one day after Pakistan's Supreme Court ousted Sharif on Friday after an investigation into corruption allegations against him and his family, bringing to an unceremonious end to his historic third term in power.
The younger Sharif holds only a provincial seat, so must be elected to the national assembly before becoming the new prime minister.
Abbasi, 58, is a staunch Sharif loyalist and had been the petroleum minister in his cabinet until Friday, when Sharif resigned following a Supreme Court disqualification after a corruption probe.
Shahbaz Sharif, 65, the chief minister of the vast Punjab province that accounts for more than half of Pakistan’s 190 million people, will also need to resign from his regional post.
The deposed Prime Minister Sharif expressed his disappointment over his disqualification by the country's highest court for allegedly concealing assets.
In his first televised comments, Sharif said he was removed by the Supreme Court on Friday over “baseless allegations.”
Sharif said the opposition campaigned against him in recent years, accusing him and his family of indulging in alleged corruption.
He said his hands are clean and that none of his family members misused government funds.
Sharif said he was pressured by the opposition to step down but refused to accept the demand because he believed the allegations levelled against him were baseless.
He said he felt sad over his removal from office as he was sincerely working for the nation like “a soldier.”
Nawaz Sharif’s resignation on Friday has plunged the nuclear-armed nation into political turmoil after several years of relative stability. Sharif quit after he was disqualified by the Supreme Court over undeclared assets.
The court has also ordered a criminal investigation into Sharif, 67, and his family.
Abbasi is set to be rubber-stamped as placeholder in a parliamentary vote, with Sharif's ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz commanding a majority in the 342-seat house.
One senior PML-N official close to Sharif said Abbasi should be appointed “in an hour”, while a second source confirmed the appointment and the plan to have Abbasi in place until Shahbaz contests a parliamentary seat and becomes eligible to take over.
The opposition could also field a candidate for the premiership, though the nominee has little chance of getting sufficient votes.
Supporters rally in capital
Hundreds of supporters of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have rallied in the capital against his disqualification by the country’s highest court.
The demonstrators on Saturday marched on a key road in Islamabad and chanted slogans in favor of Sharif before peacefully dispersing.
Sharif's supporters have held similar small rallies in the eastern city of Lahore from where he won the 2013 parliamentary elections.
The rally also came after opposition leader Imran Khan asked his supporters to reach Islamabad on Sunday to celebrate Sharif’s removal. Khan had led dozens of protest rallies in recent years to pressure Sharif to resign on allegation of corruption.