Who is Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistan’s new Prime Minister?

It has been a tumultuous week in Pakistani politics. Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote on Sunday following a week-long political drama that put the 220 million-strong Muslim majority on the brink of democratic collapse.

Khan, a former cricket star, came to power in 2018 and promised a “new Pakistan” and the creation of an Islamic welfare state after cultivating a loyal following among young Pakistanis. In recent months, he had struggled to deal with a deteriorating economy and severe inflation, gained enemies among the opposition and lost the support of powerful military leaders.

He opposed a previous no-confidence motion by dissolving the Legislative Assembly in early April, claiming there was a foreign conspiracy to oust him. Opposition leaders approached the Supreme Court, which ruled in their favor on Thursday, saying the vote should be held.

On Sunday, Pakistan’s parliament voted to remove Khan by 174 votes out of 342, two more than the simple majority needed. In his place, Shehbaz Sharif, a veteran politician and leader of the opposition, was elected prime minister by parliament until Pakistanis can elect a leader in a parliamentary election. which should be called by July 2023 at the latest. No Pakistani Prime Minister has completed a five-year term since the country’s founding in 1947.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted in a no – confidence vote

Here’s what you need to know about Pakistan’s new Prime Minister.

Shehbaz Sharif was born in Lahore, Pakistan, on September 23, 1951, the younger brother of Nawaz Sharif, who would become Prime Minister three times. Their father, Muhammad Sharif, founded Ittefaq Group, a steel producer. Shehbaz Sharif followed in his father’s footsteps and became a businessman who, according to Al Jazeera, was a co-owner of a Pakistani steel company.

How did he start in politics?

Shehbaz Sharif was the Prime Minister of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest and richest province for three periods. During that time, he embarked on ambitious infrastructure projects and gained a reputation for good governance and efficiency. “He is seen as the one who gets things done,” said Madiha Afzal, a fellow in the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution.

He was first elected Prime Minister of Punjab in 1997; three years later he went into exile in Saudi Arabia after a military coup led by Pervez Musharraf against Nawaz Sharif. Shehbaz Sharif returned to Pakistan in 2007 and was elected Punjab’s Prime Minister for the second time in 2008.

He became the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, one of the country’s largest political parties, after his brother received a prison sentence in 2018.

Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to 10 years for corruption and fined $ 10.6 million after the Panama Papers investigation, which examined 11.5 million leaked documents and showed how the powerful and wealthy hid their fortunes in offshore accounts. Documents leaked by Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian offshore provider, revealed how three of Sharif’s children – Mariam, Hasan and Husain – were linked to offshore companies that acted as owners of four luxury apartments in London, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists ( ICIJ). ).

Nawaz Sharif denied any wrongdoing and was barred from holding political office by the Supreme Court, in part because of an anti-corruption campaign led by Imran Khan. Shehbaz Sharif called the ruling by the Pakistani court “undemocratic”.

Nawaz Sharif’s legal problems seemed to jeopardize the future of the political Sharif dynasty. Wealthy and powerful families have dominated Pakistani politics, especially Sharifs and Bhuttos.

Shehbaz and his son and political heir, Hamza, who has been elected Punjab’s next prime minister, have also been charged with corruption.

What challenges does Sharif face?

The country is in the midst of one of the worst inflation crises in Asia, with fuel and food costs 15.1 percent higher in mid-March than a year earlier, according to the Financial Times. Two-thirds of Pakistanis consider inflation to be Pakistan’s biggest problem, according to a Gallup poll quoted by the newspaper.

During a speech Sunday, Sharif promised to bring unity and tackle the economy.

“The economic challenges are huge and we have to find a way out of these problems. We have to shed sweat and blood to revive the economy,” he said, according to Al Jazeera, adding that his government will speed up Chinese-backed infrastructure projects in Pakistan as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

It is unclear whether Sharif will choose to remain in power for a year and then hold elections or print early elections. “It’s a big question. We do not know yet,” Afzal said.

Unlike his brother, who lost favor with the military, Sharif is known for having a good relationship with military leaders, and he is not a figure likely to oppose them, Afzal said.

But there may be other challenges ahead.

“He has never held the national office before, except to have been the leader of the opposition for the last three years, so this will be a test for him,” Afzal said.

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