New Delhi, July 29 (IANS) He refused to testify against the now-ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999 after General Musharraf staged a coup, landing himself in a military jail.
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has remained loyal to his political master ever since. Now, after nearly two decades, his master has chosen him to step into his shoes, though for a short stint of 45 days. This period will allow the annointed prime minister, Shahbaz Sharif, brother of the ousted leader, to win a seat to the National Assembly, as required by law.
A second generation politician, 59-year-old Abbasi has been a staunch supporter of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. He was chairman of Pakistan International Airlines from 1997 to 1999 when General Musharraf overthrew Sharif’s government. He was arrested and remained in jail for two years. He was acquitted by a court in 2001.
He has steadfastly refused to turn approver against Nawaz Sharif in the corruption cases which reinforced the confidence of senior leadership reposed in him. After PML-N victory in 2013 general elections, he was made a part of federal cabinet by allotting him the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources. He conducted various projects for the discovery of fossil fuels in Sindh and elsewhere.
The announcement came a day after Pakistan’s Supreme Court removed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from the office, after finding that he was dishonest to Parliament and had misled the courts.
Abbasi, also the CEO of private airline Air Blue, has Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from George Washington University in Washington DC, and has been elected as Member of the National Assembly in six elections since 1988. He was also the Federal Minister of Commerce in the Yousaf Raza Gillani cabinet.
Abbasi will now need to obtain a trust vote from the National Assembly — a rubber stamp cermony — before he is sworn in.
The rulling party also decided to rally behind Nawaz’s younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, as his eventual successor.
Sharif would be sworn in after 45 days of Abbasi’s caretaker prime ministership. Sharif needs to get elected to the National Assembly before assuming the highest government office, and he will fight from seat NA-120 in Lahore. Pakistan’s Election Commission will issue the date for the polls on July 28.