Pakistan's new PM says Sharif is innocent

AP
Veteran lawmaker Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was elected prime minister of Pakistan yesterday, less than a week after the Supreme Court disqualified Nawaz Sharif for concealing assets.
AP

Veteran lawmaker Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was elected prime minister of Pakistan yesterday, less than a week after the Supreme Court disqualified thrice-elected Nawaz Sharif for concealing assets.

Abbasi, a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, got 221 votes in the 342-member National Assembly. Closest rival Syed Naveed Qamar, of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party, secured 47 votes. Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, a lawmaker from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, founded by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, got 33 votes.

Sharif, 67, was disqualified last Friday for concealing assets — specifically, that his son’s Dubai-based company listed a monthly salary for him. Sharif claimed he never received any of that money.

In his first televised speech, an emotional Abbasi dismissed the corruption allegations against Sharif as baseless and said he hoped the deposed premier would return to parliament soon.

He said the people of Pakistan did not accept Sharif’s disqualification.

Abbasi stopped short of criticizing the judiciary, saying legal experts were surprised by the decision to disqualify Sharif and “no one is willing to accept it.” 

He said Sharif was victimized for putting Pakistan back on the path of progress and bringing in foreign investments worth billions of dollars to Pakistan.

Abbasi also asked his countrymen to pay their taxes as he plans to take stern action against anyone involved in tax evasion. 

He said rich people must pay their taxes for Pakistan’s economy to improve. He promised better health and education facilities for his countrymen.

Abbasi said he would ensure the rule of law and that he would run the country strictly according to the constitution.

Sharif’s party has said it will file a petition with the Supreme Court next week asking for a review of its decision to disqualify him.

Sharif’s party wants Abbasi to serve as an interim premier until Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of Punjab province, wins a national assembly seat in a by-election.

The next general election is scheduled to take place in June 2018.

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