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Pakistan’s ruling party mulls options after PM resigns

PAKISTAN’S RULING PARTY MULLS OPTIONS AFTER PM RESIGNS

After disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court, the country's ruling party is considering different options whether to complete its term with a new prime minister or go for early elections.

In a series of interviews after the prime minister resigned following Friday's Panama papers case judgment, a majority of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) leaders favored an option of electing a new prime minister and complete the remaining one year term.

"Only a few (cabinet) members were in favor of early elections. A majority of parliamentarians advised Nawaz Sharif to choose his successor, and we have given him full mandate in this regard", a senior PML-N leader told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity due to sensitivity of the matter.

Sharif and his close aides are deliberating on different names to elect his successor, he, who was member of the recently dissolved cabinet, said.

"Frankly speaking, only Nawaz Sharif knows who will be his successor. We have given him our advice but he will have the final word on the matter", he maintained.

One of the options, according to him, the ruling party is considering is that Sharif's younger brother and Chief Minister of Punjab province Shehbaz Sharif be elected as a member of National Assembly in a by-election and then take the charge of premiership.

According to Pakistan's constitution, only a member of the National Assembly can be elected as the prime minister.

Currently, Shehbaz Sharif is a member of the Punjab Assembly, hence he needs to contest a by-election and get elected as a member of National Assembly, which requires a legal time frame of 45 days.

The Supreme Court in its judgment has already asked President Mamnoon Hussein to summon the National Assembly to elect new prime minister.

EARLY ELECTIONS?
According to PML-N leaders and local media, former defense minister Khawaja Asif, ex-petroleum minister Shahid Khakhan Abbasi, ex-development minister Ahsan Iqbal, and former railway minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq are being considered as interim prime minister.

Analysts however do not see it as a viable option.

"Dislocating Shehbaz from Punjab, which is a stronghold and political base of PML-N will not be a wise move. He is doing a good job there, and his performance could be a key to PML-N's success in 2018 elections," Abdul Khalique Ali, a Karachi-based senior political analyst told Anadolu Agency.

Hamza Shehbaz, a son of Shehbaz Sharif, and the only member of National Assembly belonging to Sharif family, could be another option but his weak personality and lack of experience are two major handicaps of the political heir of Sharif family, Ali opined.

Khawaja Asif, according to him, had appeared to be the strongest candidate to succeed Sharif. However, he was reportedly facing an opposition from within the party and also from the country's powerful army for his anti-army statements in the recent past.

Ahsan Iqbal and Shahid Khakhan Abbasi could also be considered for the premiership as both are not only Sharif's close confidants but are also undisputed in the party.

Analysts opined that Sharif will not go for early elections because of two major reasons.

"Disqualification is not an end for Sharif. He has to face different cases in the courts. And he would want his party to be in power for its remaining term," Irshad Arif, an Islamabad-based analyst said.

Secondly, he noted, because of its incumbent majority in the National Assembly, Sharif's party could win more seats in the next Senate elections to be held in March 2018.

"At present, PML-N is not a majority party in the Upper House (Senate), but in the next elections, it is in a position to win more seats compared to any other party. Therefore, it is most likely that Sharif will not go for fresh elections", he maintained.

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