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Pakistan’s parliament elects Sharif loyalist Abbasi as new PM

pakistanPakistan’s parliament elected ruling party loyalist Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as prime minister on Tuesday, days after Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court after a corruption probe.

Abbasi is seen as a placeholder for Sharif’s designated successor, his younger brother Shahbaz, who must first be elected to the 342-member National Assembly before taking the top office.

Nominated by Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Abbasi secured 221 votes, Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq announced on live television. He will be sworn in later Tuesday.

Despite his election minutes before, the new premier used his maiden speech to declare Nawaz Sharif “the prime minister of the people of Pakistan”.

“Inshallah (God willing) one day the real prime minister of this country will come back and sit on this chair,” he said.

Sharif supporters in the assembly chanted slogans and waved placards bearing larger-than-life images of the deposed premier.

Absent from the assembly was opposition leader Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician who spearheaded the push against Sharif.

Abbasi, a long-time ally of Sharif, easily won the majority required to become prime minister in the PML-N dominated parliament, putting into motion a process that is expected to ultimately see a Sharif once again as Pakistan’s premier.

“Whether it’s 45 days or 45 hours, I am the prime minister of Pakistan and I am here to work, not keep the seat warm,” Abbasi continued, referring to the time limit on a by-election for Sharif’s old seat, which Shahbaz Sharif is expected to fill.

Listing PML-N trademark issues such as infrastructure projects, he also vowed to crack down on tax evaders and private ownership of automatic weapons.

Nawaz Sharif was the 15th prime minister in Pakistan’s 70-year history — roughly half of which has been spent under military rule — to be ousted before completing a full term.

The top court sacked him Friday after an investigation into corruption allegations against him and his family, bringing his historic third term in power to an unceremonious end and briefly plunging the nuclear-armed nation into political uncertainty.

Observers have said it is unclear whether the court’s ruling will allow the ousted Sharif to run for office again in the future.

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