Pakistan’s ruling party was to meet with parliamentarians Saturday to begin nominations for an interim prime minister after the Supreme Court ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, a polarising move which plunged the country into political uncertainty.
Sharif became the 15th prime minister in Pakistan’s 70-year history, which it has been under military rule for roughly half of, to be ousted before completing a full term when he was disqualified from office by the Supreme Court Friday.
The decision brought an abrupt end to his third tenure as a democratically elected premier and sent his political opposition into the streets handing out sweets and beating drums in celebration.
But Pakistanis were divided on whether it set the country’s democratic progress back, with supporters, commentators and some corners of the country’s press slamming the ruling as a “judicial coup”.
The decision removed Sharif from the leadership as well as his parliamentary seat with no clear successor in place.
A PML-N source who requested anonymity told AFP the party would meet with parliamentarians later Saturday to “chart out a future plan and nominate an interim prime minister”.
He said the party leadership was already holding informal meetings at the prime minister’s official residence, which Sharif has not yet vacated.
Meanwhile the Election Commission of Pakistan confirmed fresh elections would be held in Sharif’s former constituency.
Friday’s judgement saw the court disqualify Sharif for failing to disclose his monthly salary of 10,000 dirhams ($2,700) from a company owned by his son in the United Arab Emirates.
Sharif did not withdraw the salary, court documents show, but the five-member bench ruled his failure to disclose its existence meant he was not “honest” — a requirement for Pakistani politicians under the country’s Constitution.
Opposition leader Imran Khan, who has spearheadead the push against Sharif, hailed the verdict as ushering in a new dawn for Pakistan.
But some observers slammed it as “political” and a “technicality”, with rights campaigner and lawyer Asma Jahangir telling private Geo television late Friday that the powerful military was using the courts to destabilise democracy.
The military had an antagonistic relationship with Sharif, who had made several overtures to improve relations with nuclear arch-rival India.
Sharif’s link to the UAE company was exposed as part of an investigation into corruption allegations against his family that erupted as a result of the Panama Papers leak last year.
The publication of 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca documenting the offshore dealings of many of the world’s rich and powerful implicated three of Sharif’s four children — daughter Maryam and sons Hasan and Hussein.
Claims about the lavish lifestyles and luxury London property portfolio of the Sharif dynasty played out for months in endless loops in the country’s raucous news media.
Bribery and other forms of graft are endemic in Pakistan. But the PML-N has consistently and noisily denied the accusations, insisting that the dynasty’s wealth was acquired legally through Sharif family businesses in Pakistan and the Gulf.
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