Pakistani MPs have elected former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to replace ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, with the new premier immediately seeking to project an image of stability.
Lawmakers of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML) — Mr Nawaz’s party — banged on benches and chanted, “Lion, lion Nawaz Sharif”, after the vote, standing defiant in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to cut short his third stint in power.
A quick transition may ease fears 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.
Mr Sharif resigned on Friday after the Supreme Court disqualified him for not declaring a source of income — which the three-time premier disputes receiving.
He nominated staunch ally Mr Abbasi as interim leader until his brother, Shahbaz Sharif, becomes eligible to take over, probably within two months.
Mr Abbasi was confirmed with 221 votes in the 342-seat National Assembly as the PML used its hefty majority to push through his appointment. PML officials hugged each other and congratulated Mr Abbasi even before the result was announced.
“Within four days the process of democracy is back on track,” Mr Abbasi said after being voted in.
“Above all, I’m thankful to Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, the people’s prime minister.”
PML officials have privately spoken of plans for Mr Sharif to wield huge influence in the party from behind the scenes.
There are concerns Nawaz Sharif will continue to wield power behind the scenes. (AP: BK Bangash)
But the plan to eventually install Nawaz’s brother Shahbaz has also sparked anger among supporters of opposition leader Imran Khan, who has criticised another bout of dynastic politics, a trend with a long history in Pakistan and elsewhere in South Asia.
Western-educated Abbasi, who started his career as a businessman, has spent most of his political life by Mr Sharif’s side.
He was jailed after Pakistan’s powerful military staged a coup in 1999 to topple a previous Sharif government.
In Pakistan’s rough-and-tumble politics, charges of corruption against leading politicians are common and several figures, including opposition leader Mr Khan, face court cases.