Who will succeed Sharif?

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Islamabad, July 28 (IANS) With Nawaz Sharif stepping down, who will succeed him as Pakistan’s Prime Minister?

As Sharif resigned after a stinging Supreme Court verdict, speculation was rife in political circles on the likely men who could become the Prime Minister until the next general election.

The apex court on Friday told President Mamnoon Hussain to take charge of the country’s affairs. Being head of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, Sharif still holds the power to nominate his successor.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif is one of the most trusted men of Sharif and according to speculations, he is considered mostly likely to succeed him. The former banker has held a series of key positions within the PML-N since 1991.

Asif, a strong critic of the powerful military, has been elected to the National Assembly from his home district of Sialkot since 1993. His hardline stance against the army had created problems for Nawaz Sharif.

According to reports, the PML-N has planned to bring in an interim Prime Minister for a few weeks before electing Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz Sharif — the Punjab Chief Minister — to the post.

The younger Sharif would have to step down from his current role and be elected to the National Assembly before being eligible for the top post. Shahbaz is considered more intelligent but less charismatic than his older brother.

Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Speaker of the National Assembly, is another strong candidate for the top post. He is said to be close to the Sharif family. Sadiq gained Sharif’s trust after he defeated Sharif’s main rival Imran Khan in a hotly-contested race for a Lahore seat in the 2013 general election.

Next in line is Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal. He hails from a political family that has long been associated with Sharif’s party.

Having previously served as Minister for Education and Minorities, he has also worked as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission from 1998 to 1999 during Sharif’s second term.

–IANS

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