Nawaz to be Pakistan PM if PML-N wins; 'neutral' person to be interim premier: Shehbaz Sharif

Nawaz Sharif was disqualified in 2017 by the Supreme Court. In 2018, he became ineligible to hold public office for life after a Supreme Court verdict in the Panama Papers case.
FILE - Former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif (L) with his brother and current premier Shahbaz Sharif during a press conference in Lahore, July 29, 2017. (Photo | PTI)
FILE - Former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif (L) with his brother and current premier Shahbaz Sharif during a press conference in Lahore, July 29, 2017. (Photo | PTI)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has ruled out the possibility of the appointment of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar as the caretaker prime minister, saying a "neutral person" will be selected to lead the interim government next month to make upcoming general elections transparent.

Shehbaz Sharif, also the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party president indicated that Nawaz Sharif, a three-time former prime minister and his elder brother, who has been living in self-imposed exile in London since 2019 will return to Pakistan in the next few weeks. The 73-year-old PML-N supremo will be the Prime Minister if the party wins the election, he said.

He told Geo News that the notification of the dissolution of the National Assembly (NA) would be sent to President Arif Alvi a few days ahead of the completion of the tenure of the lower house of Parliament.

He maintained that the NA will complete its tenure at 12 midnight on August 12.

He said the caretaker set-up would be agreed upon after consultation with allied parties, PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif, and the leader of opposition in the National Assembly Raja Riaz.

Shehbaz's remarks came after rumours suggesting that Dar would be appointed as the interim prime minister so that the cash-strapped country which recently received nearly USD 3 billion from the IMF as a bailout can implement the policies to overcome the financial woes.

"A neutral person should be appointed to this position so that no one could question the results of the election," Shehbaz said, agreeing with his coalition partners who favoured a non-partisan politician to lead the caretaker set-up.

"I assure you there will be a very efficient interim government at the Centre," he added.

He said the PML-N would try to make seat adjustments with allied parties, adding that the party would field his candidate in the constitutes where they could not reach a consensus.

A bill to empower the caretaker set-up to take policy decisions was recently passed by Parliament.

Shehbaz also said that PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif will face the law upon his return to Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif was disqualified in 2017 by the Supreme Court. In 2018, he became ineligible to hold public office for life after a Supreme Court verdict in the Panama Papers case.

The PML-N supreme leader has been living in self-exile in the United Kingdom since November 2019. Before his departure to London on a four-week bail by the Lahore High Court on medical grounds, Nawaz Sharif was serving a seven-year jail term in the Al-Azizia Mills corruption case.

About forthcoming elections, the premier said Nawaz Sharif would be the next prime minister if his party came to power.

Responding to a question, Shehbaz termed the May 9 riots triggered by the arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan in a graft case a conspiracy against Pakistan.

Calling Khan, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman, the "mastermind" of the "Black Day" riots, the premier said the violence was aimed at toppling the military leadership and initiating a civil war in the country. "Being a prime minister, I am saying this on the basis of 100 per cent evidence that the May 9 conspiracy was aimed at overthrowing the army chief," he said.

"On that day, there was a plan to create anarchy and civil war in the country," he added.

Violent protests erupted across Pakistan after the cricketer-turned-politician, who was ousted through a no-trust move in April 2022, was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from the Islamabad High Court premises in the Al-Qadir corruption case.

The violence left more than 10 persons dead as PTI supporters attacked public and military properties, including the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and Lahore Corps Commander House. More than 10,000 persons were arrested, with 4,000 arrests alone from Punjab province of Pakistan, following the violence. The army also decided to try those who attacked military installations in military courts.

Following the violence, the army sacked three officials, including a Lieutenant General, and took strict departmental action against another 15 army officers, including three major generals and seven brigadiers. The PTI contested its members were not involved in the attacks, but the government and military rejected the claims and said they had "irrefutable evidence" of their involvement.

To another query, the premier said his government steered the country out of the default risk and restored the lost dignity of Pakistan during the past 15 months.

The premier again called for unity among political forces and said they must agree on a Charter of Economy. "We had difficulty reaching an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, but now the nation has to change its mode of living. On the other hand, the new government will have to utilise all resources and do hard work to bring the country out of the economic crisis. If we fail to do so we will never be remembered as a nation," he added.

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