Supporters of former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif crowd around him as he leaves Punjab house in Islamabad on August 9. Photograph: (Reuters)
Pakistan's ousted premier Nawaz Sharif said on Wednesday that he wants Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to continue as Prime Minister till the completion of the PML-N government's tenure.
Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court last month in connection with the Panama Papers scandal. The 67-year-old veteran politician soon resigned from his position and Abbasi was sworn-in as premier.
Sharif had initially announced that Abbasi will be appointed as interim premier until his brother Shehbaz is elected as a member of Parliament to become premier.
However, he had to review the decision due to fears that Punjab, which is the power house of the country, would face problems in the absence of Shehbaz as chief minister, according to sources in the PML-N.
"It is my wish that Shahid Khaqan Abbasi remains prime minister till the end of the tenure," Sharif said while addressing senior leaders of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) at the Punjab House here.
Party sources quoted Sharif as saying that Abbasi was a party veteran and a committed worker. He also urged the cabinet ministers to fully cooperate with the Prime Minister.
Sharif made the remarks just before leaving for Lahore, where he will hold a huge rally.
The current PML-N government would complete its tenure in June next year when elections would be held.
Party sources said that Sharif feared defections as several contenders for the post of chief minister appeared in Punjab after his decision to elevate Shehbaz.
In his address to PML-N leaders, Sharif appreciated his younger brother and said he was the pride of Pakistan and Punjab as he made the province a model of development.
Responding to objections that his travel plan was against the court verdict, Sharif said that he was travelling via the Grand Trunk Road to thank his supporters.
Sources said that Sharif spoke to his family members, including Shehbaz in Lahore, before embarking on his journey to Lahore.
"It is the people's trust that inspires Nawaz Sharif. May Allah keep my brother, my leader and all the participants of rally in his protection," Shehbaz tweeted.
Shehbaz also defended the rally and said it was the fundamental right of every political party to stay in touch with the people.
"It is the linchpin of the democratic order and oxygen for political parties," he said.