ISLAMABAD: President Mamnoon Hussain has summoned the National Assembly (NA) session to meet on Tuesday at 3:00pm to elect a new prime minister following the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership following a consultative meeting and parliamentary party meeting nominated Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for the slot of the prime minister for an interim period of nearly two months.
He would continue to hold the slot till (Punjab Chief Minister) Shahbaz Sharif’s election as member of the National Assembly (MNA) from NA-120 Lahore constituency to become permanent prime minister till June 4 next.
As per the election schedule, candidates received nomination papers from NA Speaker office by 3:00pm on Sunday. Nomination papers can be filed by 2:00pm on Monday and the Speaker will scrutinise the papers by 3:00pm the same day.
The election will be held at 3:00pm on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the opposition has started efforts to bring a consensus candidate against the PML-N for the prime minister’s slot.
The consultations are being spearheaded by leader of opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah by contacting all the like-minded parties.
Among the opposition parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to which Shah belongs is the largest in the National Assembly followed by the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI).
Some smaller groups having a few seats also side with the opposition grouping.
Given the superior numerical strength of the PML-N and its allies in the Lower House of Parliament, the election of its candidate as prime minister is likely to be a smooth affair. However, its detractors keenly watch the number of MNAs, who, they believe, might defect from it for being against the party’s policies.
PML-N party has a strong majority in parliament and should have no problem installing Abbasi as the new leader of the nation.
The quick handover could ease political upheaval sparked by the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to disqualify Nawaz Sharif for not declaring a source of income. The court also ordered a criminal investigation into him and his family.
But his foes slammed PML-N’s plans as dynastic and undemocratic, while opposition leader Imran Khan called it a form of “monarchy.”
Sharif said the plan is for former petroleum minister Abbasi to stay in power for less than two months until Shahbaz, who is the chief minister of the vast Punjab province, wins a by-election to the national assembly and becomes eligible to be prime minister.
“We wanted to make sure there is a smooth transfer of power, and no constitutional crisis,” said Miftah Ismail, a senior PML-N official and Sharif ally.
Abbasi and Shahbaz will have to hit the ground running to tackle Pakistan’s worsening ties with the United States, frayed relations with India, and persistent attacks by militants including the Pakistani Taliban and Daesh.
They will also need to boost economic growth above the current rate of 5.3 per cent to find employment for millions of young people entering the job market every year in a nation of nearly 200 million people.
Economists say this will prove tricky at a time when the current account deficit is ballooning and an overvalued currency is hurting exports.