ISLAMABAD: The top leadership of Pakistan's ruling party has decided to appoint ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif's brother Shehbaz Sharif as premier if it wins next year general elections, a media report said.
Shehbaz, 66, is the younger brother of Sharif and currently the chief minister of the country's largest province of Punjab.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz during a meeting in London on Monday decided to project Shehbaz as prime ministerial candidate after the 2018 elections if Sharif remains ineligible to run for office, Dawn reported.
The London meeting was presided over by Nawaz Sharif and attended by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Shehbaz and federal ministers Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Asif and Ahsan Iqbal.
Sharif, 67, was disqualified as the prime minister by the Supreme Court on July 28 in the Panama Papers scandal.
A senior PML-N leader told the paper that the decision to pitch the Punjab chief minister for the office had been taken in view of the fact that disqualification of the elder Sharif under the Supreme Court orders in the Panama Papers case might not be overturned by the vote due after about nine months.
The decision coincided with a full-page result of a national opinion survey published in an Urdu daily in which 60 per cent of respondents declared Shehbaz as the best choice for the prime ministerial job.
According to the survey, conducted by a little known US institute Global Strategic Partner in September, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan was the choice of 47 per cent of total 4,540 respondents from across the country.
A PML-N official, considered close to the Punjab chief minister, said Shehbaz had always been the party’s candidate for the office of prime minister after his brother’s ouster.
He rejected a perception that there were divergent views in the party on the nomination of Shehbaz for the greater role or that the chief minister lacked the ability to take along all opinion.
Sharif is in London along with his family to be with his ailing wife Kulsoom Nawaz who is still receiving cancer treatment in the British capital.