Pakistan’s lawmakers will elect a new prime minister on Tuesday to replace ousted leader Nawaz Sharif, with ruling party stalwart Shahid Khaqan Abbasi expected to become interim leader until Mr Sharif’s brother is eligible.
The confirmation from parliament came after Pakistani president Mamnoon Hussain convened a special session after Mr Sharif decided to put forward his ally Mr Abbasi as interim leader and named his brother Shahbaz (65) as long-term successor.
Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party holds a majority with 188 seats in the 342-member parliament, so it should be able to swiftly install its choice, barring any defections from its own ranks.
A quick handover could ease the political upheaval sparked by a supreme court decision on Friday to disqualify Mr Sharif for not declaring a source of income. The court also ordered a criminal investigation into him and his family.
Mr Abbasi on Sunday vowed to continue Mr Sharif’s work.
“I hope that God will help me in furthering Nawaz Sharif’s policies,” Mr Abbasi told reporters in Islamabad, adding to speculation that Mr Sharif will continue to run the show behind the scenes.
The turmoil and the premature end to Mr Sharif’s third stint in power has also raised questions about Pakistan’s democracy. No prime minister has completed a full term in power since the country gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
“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.
On Sunday evening, thousands of supporters of opposition politician Imran Khan held a celebration rally in Islamabad, waving flags and cheering Mr Sharif’s ouster.
Mr Khan, who spearheaded a campaign for the Supreme Court case that removed Mr Sharif, has said he expects to win the next general elections in 2018.
Meanwhile, Sharif loyalists incensed by his ouster cheered his arrival in the hill town of Murree.
Mr Sharif has lashed out against the court’s decision and opponents who used the supreme court to topple him. He has vowed his party would continue to focus on development, touting a faster-growing economy as proof of his success.
“Wheel of development is moving and may god keep it rolling and may it never stop,” he told members of PML-N on Saturday night.
On Mr Sharif’s arrival, supporters chanted: “The Lion is here”.
But his foes slammed PML-N’s plans as dynastic and undemocratic. Mr Khan called it a form of “monarchy”.
Mr Sharif said the plan is for former petroleum minister Mr Abbasi to stay in power for less than two months until Mr 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.
Mr Abbasi and Mr Shahbaz will have to work fast to tackle Pakistan’s worsening ties with the United States, frayed relations with India, and persistent attacks by Islamist militants, including the Pakistani Taliban and Islamic State.