Pakistan names Abbasi interim prime minister

Pakistan names Abbasi interim prime minister

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ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan's ruling party named senior lawmaker Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as successor to the deposed prime minister on Saturday, a day after the Supreme Court removed Nawaz Sharif from office for concealing assets.

Sharif proposed Abbasi as interim prime minister at the meeting of Pakistan Muslim League party in Islamabad. His request was endorsed by lawmakers from his party.

Because Sharif's party enjoys a comfortable majority in the parliament, his longtime loyalist Abbasi is expected to easily win the required vote when National Assembly meets next week.

In a televised speech Saturday, Sharif said that his younger brother, Shahbaz, who currently is chief minister in Punjab province, would contest election to the National Assembly, in the seat which fell vacant with his removal.

In an emotional appeal, Sharif sought support for Shahbaz as a future full-time premier. Sharif said he tried his best to put Pakistan on the path of progress but was unfairly penalized with his disqualification.

"I was not expecting what happened to me yesterday," he said.

Sharif said he was removed by the Supreme Court on "baseless allegations."

He said the opposition had campaigned against him in recent years, accusing him and his family of indulging in alleged corruption. "My hands are clean and none of my family members misused government funds," he said.

It was his first public response to Friday's court ruling.

Sharif said he felt saddened by his removal as he believed he had worked sincerely for the nation like "a soldier." He said history would now decide whether the court's decision was good for Pakistan.

Sharif defended his record, saying he always paid his taxes.

Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz in a tweet said her father would "return with greater force," and asked her party to "stay strong"

Also Saturday, Abbasi vowed to "continue the mission" of Sharif. He said he was grateful to Sharif for naming him premier, even though it will only be for a brief period.

Saturday's developments came amid a serious political crisis that gripped Pakistan because of Sharif's removal, with lawmakers and legal experts wondering who was running the government.

Earlier, Raja Zafarul Haq, a senior leader from Sharif's party, said Pakistan would continue without a prime minister until the National Assembly elects a new one. "We are without a prime minister even now," he told The Associated Press.

Haq said that although the court in Friday's ruling asked figurehead President Mamnoon Hussain to "ensure continuation of the democratic process," the reality was that the country was still facing a political crisis.

He said there was no provision in the constitution about the appointment of an acting prime minister. He said Sharif might have stayed in power until the appointment of a new prime minister if judges had not sacked him effective immediately.

Sharif resigned Friday, saying he had reservations about the court ruling.

Sharif has been banned from participating in politics for not being "truthful and honest." His party's leaders have noted, however, that their party still enjoys a majority and will stay in power until general elections are held in June 2018.

Earlier, hundreds of supporters of Sharif rallied in Islamabad against his disqualification. The demonstrators marched on a key road, chanting slogans before peacefully dispersing.

Opposition leader Imran Khan asked his supporters to travel to Islamabad Sunday to celebrate Sharif's removal.

The 67-year-old Sharif, who has served three separate stints as prime minister, has a history of rocky relations with Pakistan's powerful military.

He was first dismissed from power by the army's hand-picked president in 1993 about midway through his five-year term. In 1999, military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf overthrew Sharif in a bloodless coup and exiled him to Saudi Arabia.

The military has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 70-year history and has been unwilling to see its influence challenged.

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