The younger brother of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been elected acting head of the country’s ruling party, following his latest disqualification by the Supreme Court.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Tuesday chose Shahbaz as its president.
“A meeting of the party’s General Council will be held on March 6, which would elect Shahbaz as the permanent president,” party official Mushahidullah Khan said.
“Nawaz Sharif will work as a life leader of the party.”
The move to elevate Shahbaz in rank was seen as an attempt to continue the dynastic political system, which has been opposed by critics.
Shahbaz, 66, is currently serving as the chief minister in Punjab province. He has built a reputation as a competent administrator who gets things done, especially mega projects that are the cornerstone of the party’s electoral appeal.
Shahbaz’s election is likely to prompt speculations that he will replace Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as prime minister if the party sweeps back to power after general elections due in the summer.
Nawaz resigned in July after the country’s top court ousted him from office for concealing financial assets. The Supreme Court’s decision last week effectively bars Sharif from leading the PML-N.
In the court order, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on February 21 directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to remove Sharif as head of the PML-N from all relevant records.
Nawaz could end up in jail if he is convicted in a separate corruption trial expected to take place soon.
Sharif and his supporters have repeatedly denied allegations of corruption, suggesting the three-time premier is the victim of a conspiracy driven by Pakistan’s powerful military establishment. In recent weeks, Sharif and his party have waged a war of words against the judiciary and military.
Despite Nawaz’s legal woes, the 68-year-old has maintained a tight grip on the party.
Sharif was the 15th prime minister in Pakistan’s 70-year history to be ousted before completing a full term.
Sharif has served as prime minister twice before and each time was removed from office, in 1999 by a military coup and 1993 by presidential order.