A long-time loyalist of Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister who was ousted by the Supreme Court last week, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will act as a placeholder for Sharif's younger brother Shahbaz.

Abbasi, a businessman who launched the country's most successful private airline, was poised to secure an easy to win given the ruling party's comprehensive majority in the National Assembly.
Abbasi, a businessman who launched the country's most successful private airline, was poised to secure an easy to win given the ruling party's comprehensive majority in the National Assembly.

Pakistan's parliament on Tuesday elected the former federal petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as an interim prime minister, days after the country's apex court ousted Nawaz Sharif over unreported income.

​Considered highly intelligent and a long-time loyalist of Nawaz Sharif, the 58-year-old Abbasi will act as a placeholder for the Sharif dynasty.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz nominated Abbasi as its candidate for the prime minister's post for an interim period before Nawaz Sharif's younger brother Shahbaz Sharif takes over for the remaining 10 months of the government's term.

Shahbaz, who is the chief minister of the vast Punjab province, is required to win a by-election for a national assembly seat to become eligible to be prime minister.

Given the PML-N's comprehensive majority in the National Assembly, Abbasi, a businessman who launched the country's most successful private airline, secured an easy victory with 221 votes.

Other than Abbasi, there were three candidates vying for the office of prime minister. Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan People's Party bagged 47 votes, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)-backed Sheikh Rashid Ahmed of the Awami Muslim League won 33 votes and Sahibzada Tariqullah of Jamat-e-Islami received 4 votes.

Education and political career

Educated in the US at George Washington University, he was born in Karachi but is a member of the National Assembly from Murree - a hill station that is a favourite holiday destination for Sharif.

Before joining politics, Abbasi worked in the US and Saudi Arabia as an electrical engineer. His father, who had been a federal minister in General Zia ul Haq's government, was killed in Rawalpindi in 1988 when a stray missile struck the vehicle he was travelling in, after an ammunition dump exploded.

Abbasi has been elected six times as a member of the National Assembly since then, and has previously served as minister for commerce and defence production.

He was the chairman of national flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) from 1997 to 1999, until General Pervez Musharraf overthrew Sharif's second government.

Abbasi was arrested after the coup and imprisoned for two years before being released.

In 2003, he setup a private airline Air Blue, the country's most successful private airline and challenger to PIA. Abbasi was appointed oil minister when Nawaz Sharif won his third election in 2013. Later, he served as the federal petroleum minister in the same cabinet.

Court ruling

Nawaz Sharif, whose PML-N party won a majority in parliament in 2013, said he was shocked by Friday's Supreme Court ruling disqualifying him from office over unreported income from a company owned by his son in Dubai.

Sharif said the monthly salary - equivalent to $2,722 - was nominal and he never actually received any of it.

The Supreme Court employed little-used Article 62 of the Constitution, which calls for the dismissal of any lawmaker deemed dishonest, to dismiss Sharif.

His allies believe the verdict smacks of judicial overreach, while others privately say elements of the military had a hand in the process.

The army has not commented on Sharif's departure, or on allegations they were involved. It has also dismissed claims in the past that they were behind the Supreme Court's push.

Sharif's two previous stints in power were also cut short, the second ending in a military coup led by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999.

Shahbaz Sharif, who has been in charge of Punjab since 2008, has better relations with the military than his brother. He has built a reputation as a competent administrator focused on building infrastructure.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies