New Pakistan PM consults ousted boss Sharif on cabinet picks
ISLAMABAD – ReutersPakistan’s new Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi began his first full day in office on Wednesday by meeting his ousted former boss Nawaz Sharif, a signal the ex-premier would continue to wield influence after the Supreme Court disqualified him.
Domestic television broadcast images of Abbasi’s motorcade arriving in the northern resort town of Muree, where Sharif is staying with his family after the Supreme Court last week disqualified him over failure to disclose a source of income.
Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party holds a solid parliamentary majority and moved quickly to project an air of continuity after the change of prime minister.
A new federal cabinet was due to be sworn in later on Wednesday, with media reporting that Abbasi would make the decision in consultation with Sharif and retain most of the former prime minister’s loyalists.
Sharif’s brother Shahbaz, tipped to become the next prime minister in a few months when he becomes eligible, was also present at the meeting, footage released by the prime minister’s office showed.
Abbasi talked to Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif at government accommodation in Muree, pictures and video sent to media groups showed.
Abbasi himself served as petroleum minister in Sharif’s previous cabinet, which stepped down after he was removed.
A quick transition may ease fears that the nuclear-armed nation will be plunged into another bout of political turmoil, which could erode economic and security gains since the last poll in 2013.
Sharif’s allies have dismissed the July 28 ruling as a targeted campaign to unseat the popularly elected prime minister, and a member of his former cabinet implied that elements of the powerful military had a hand in his ouster.
The ruling PML-N party used its majority in the National Assembly on Aug. 1 to install Abbasi who is expected to serve until Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz, becomes eligible to take over.
Shahbaz, now chief minister of the eastern province of Punjab, home to more than half of Pakistan’s 190 million people, will have to resign and fight a parliamentary by-election before he can take over as prime minister.
PML-N lawmakers banged on benches and chanted “Lion, lion Nawaz Sharif” after Abassi was voted in, standing defiant in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to cut short Sharif’s third stint in power.