Pakistan ruling party meets to consider PM successor


The ruling party of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will choose his successor Saturday, a day after Pakistan's Supreme Court removed the premier from office after finding that he and his family concealed their assets, officials said.

The move comes amid a serious political crisis that has gripped Pakistan, with constitutional experts and lawmakers wondering who is running the government after Sharif's disqualification.

"Unfortunately, we are without a prime minister. We are without a government," Raja Zafarul Haq, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, told The Associated Press. The party was meeting Saturday to discuss a potential successor.

Haq said although the court in Friday's ruling asked the figurehead President Mamnoon Hussain to "ensure continuation of the democratic process," the reality was that the country was facing a political crisis.

Haq said there was no provision in the constitution about appointment of an acting prime minister. He said Sharif might have stayed in power until the appointment of a new prime minister if judges had not sacked him effective immediately.

In that situation, Hussain could ask Sharif to remain in office until his successor is elected. Sharif resigned Friday, saying he had reservations about the court ruling on petitions filed by his political opponents.

Haq said Sharif was the victim of a "trivial allegation of concealing his assets."

Sharif has been banned by the court from taking part in politics for not being "truthful and honest." It angered his party leaders who note that their party enjoys a majority and will stay in power until general elections are held in June 2018.

The 67-year-old Sharif, who has served three separate stints as prime minister, has a history of rocky relations with Pakistan's powerful military.

He was first dismissed from power by the army's hand-picked president in 1993 about midway through his five-term term. In 1999, military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf overthrew Sharif in a bloodless coup and exiled him to Saudi Arabia.

Sharif's supporters suggested the military applauded the court decision because it viewed him as an upstart who sought to challenge its authority.

The military has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 70-year history and has been unwilling to see its influence challenged. Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz in a tweet said her father would "return with greater force," and she asked her party to "stay strong."

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