File photo of Shehbaz Sharif. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
Shahbaz Sharif was unanimously elected as interim president of Pakistan's ruling PML-N today while his elder brother and ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif was made the beleaguered party's 'Quaid' (top leader) for life time.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) elected its new head days after the Supreme Court disqualified 68-year-old Nawaz as the chief of his party and struck down all decisions taken by him as the party head.
Shahbaz, the 66-year-old chief minister of Punjab province, has been elected as the party's president for 45 days by its central working committee (CWC) in a meeting held in Sharif's Model Town Lahore residence today.
In the meeting, Nawaz proposed the name of Shahbaz for the party's interim president which was unanimously approved by the CWC.
The meeting also approved making Nawaz PML-N "Quaid" (top leader) for life time and also paid tributes to his service for the party, country and democracy.
"PML-N elects Nawaz as its Quaid for life. Raja Zafarul Haq, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif's proposal elicited a resounding approval from the CWC," Nawaz's daughter Maryam tweeted.
PML-N's information secretary Senator Mushahidullah Khan told PTI there was no candidate for the slot of interim president of PML-N other than Shahbaz Sharif.
"Nawaz proposed Shahbaz's name for the party's interim president and all more than 100 CWC members approved his name unanimously. Shahbaz will continue as the party's full-time president after the general council elects him in a meeting in Islamabad next month," he said.
Under the party's rules, the PML-N's CWC is supposed to elect an acting party head within a week of its chief's removal. Then the party's general council is required to elect a president within 45 days. Nawaz was removed from the post of PML-N president by the apex court on February 22.
After becoming the party president, Shahbaz praised his elder brother for making the PML-N the country's most popular political force. "I will try my best to come up to the expectations of my party after assuming this responsibility," he said.
Nawaz has already nominated Shahbaz for the prime minister candidate if PML-N wins this year's general elections.
He had finalised his younger brother's nomination for the slot of party president after consulting his wife Kulsoom, daughter Maryam, defunct finance minister Ishaq Dar, former information minister Senator Pervaiz Rashid and a few others.
"Begum Kulsoom would have been the best choice to succeed Nawaz Sharif but since she is not well and is recovering from throat cancer (lymphoma) in London, Shahbaz Sharif has become the ultimate choice although some close to Nawaz have reservations (about him). Maryam's name was not considered for the slot as she is too young to handle the party at this stage," a PML-N leader said.
Nawaz was disqualified as the prime minister by the apex court in the Panama Papers case in July last year under Article 62 for failing to declare a receivable salary as an asset.
After his disqualification as prime minister, the ruling PML-N amended the Constitution to allow him to retain his chairmanship of the party.
However, the apex court last week ruled that it is mandatory for a party chief to fulfil the requirements of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution as a party head is powerful and political parties control the government.
It also said that a person who is disqualified under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution is not eligible to sign on any document needed to nominate someone to the National Assembly or Senate.
The apex court's verdict was in response to 17 petitions challenging the controversial Elections Act 2017, which had been bulldozed through parliament last year to pave the way for Nawaz's return to the PML-N's helm as party president.