Pakistan, rudderless but resilient

The supreme court’s decision in July to disqualify from office the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has left a leadership vacuum. The supreme court’s decision in July to disqualify from office the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has left a leadership vacuum.

Dragged down alongside Nawaz was his longstanding finance minister Ishaq Dar, also disqualified and now himself facing serious corruption charges. However, as A2 noted before all of this, their party the PML-N continues to wield a majority in the National Assembly, meaning that Nawaz remains Pakistan’s de facto leader.

Pakistan is supposedly being run by the acting prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, from whom little has been heard.

 
Since his downfall – the third time he has been ejected as prime minister – Nawaz has been spending much of his time in Saudi Arabia, where he resided for years after being ousted as prime minister by Pakistan’s army in 1999. Nawaz has also been much present in London, where his family’s ownership of a multi-million-dollar property portfolio, and his inability to explain how they paid for it, was the crux of the anti-corruption case against him. Meanwhile, Pakistan is supposedly being run by the acting prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, from whom little has been heard.

Stalled succession

After his resignation, A2 forecast that Nawaz Sharif’s brother Shahbaz was the most obvious candidate to take over the role of prime minister. This remains the case, but a reluctance has crept in within the PML-N and the Sharif family to press on with this transition. The problem is, Shahbaz Sharif is chief minister of Punjab, home to two thirds of Pakistanis and the mainstay of the national economy. Relinquishing Lahore for Islamabad is not without potential costs, especially if Shahbaz finds himself under additional anti-corruption scrutiny as prime minister.

Much attention is now on the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the body tasked with cleaning up Pakistan’s endemic official corruption. The next three months are critical: the NAB’s chair, Justice Javed Iqbal, said on 23 October that he wanted all the high-profile corruption cases on the NAB’s books to be submitted to the courts by early in 2018.

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