© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Opposition leader Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sherif, brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, gestures while addressing the media at the Pakistan Supreme Court in Islamabad, Pakistan April 7, 2022. REUTERS/ Akhtar Soomro
By Syed Raza Hassan and Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Shehbaz Sharif, the man most likely to become Pakistan’s next prime minister, is little known abroad but is more popular at home as an effective administrator than a politician. .
The younger brother of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz, 70, led the opposition’s successful bid in parliament to oust Imran Khan in a vote of no confidence early Sunday that Khan’s supporters have been trying to stop it for hours.
Analysts say Shehbaz, unlike Nawaz, has friendly relations with the Pakistani military, which has traditionally controlled foreign policy and defense in the nuclear-armed nation of 220 million people.
Pakistan’s generals have directly intervened to overthrow civilian governments three times, and no prime minister has ended a five-year term since the South Asian nation’s independence from Britain in 1947.
Shehbaz, the opposition candidate to replace Khan, told parliament, shortly after the vote was an opportunity to make a new star. “A new dawn has begun … this alliance will rebuild Pakistan,” he said.
Shehbaz, part of the wealthy Sharif dynasty, is best known for his direct, “can-do” administrative style, as demonstrated when, as governor of Punjab province, he cooperated closely closely with China in Beijing-funded projects.
He also said in an interview last week that a good relationship with the United States is very important to Pakistan for better or for worse, in stark contrast to Khan’s recent adversarial relationship with Pakistan. Washington.
There are still a number of procedural steps left before Sharif can become Pakistan’s 23rd prime minister, excluding caretaker governing bodies, although the opposition has consistently identified him as the only candidate of it.
If he assumes the role, he faces immediate challenges, especially Pakistan’s crumbling economy, which is plagued by high inflation, a depreciating local currency and foreign exchange reserves. rapid decline.
Analysts also say that Sharif will not act with full independence as he will have to work on a collective agenda with other opposition parties and his brother.
Nawaz has lived for the past two years in London since his release from prison, where he is serving a sentence for corruption, for medical treatment.
As governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, Shehbaz Sharif has planned and implemented a number of ambitious major infrastructure projects, including Pakistan’s first mass transit system. in his hometown, Lahore, east.
According to local media, last year the outgoing consul-general of China wrote to Sharif praising his “Punjab Speed” implementation of projects under the Corridor initiative. Huge China-Pakistan Economy (CPEC).
The diplomat also said Sharif and his party would be friends with China in government or opposition.
In Afghanistan, Islamabad is under international pressure to push the Taliban to meet human rights commitments while trying to limit instability there.
Unlike Khan, who frequently denounces India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, the Sharif political dynasty has been more moderate towards its nuclear-armed neighbour, Pakistan has fought three wars.
In terms of his relationship with the powerful military, Sharif has long played the role of the “good cop” in public the “bad cop” of Nawaz – who later had a number of public wars with the military. .
Shehbaz was born in Lahore to a wealthy industrial family and was educated locally. He later joined the family business and jointly owned a Pakistani steel company.
He entered politics in Punjab, becoming prime minister for the first time in 1997 before being caught up in a national coup and imprisoned after a military coup. He was then sent into exile in Saudi Arabia in 2000.
Shehbaz returned from exile in 2007 to continue her political career, again in Punjab.
He entered national politics when he became the head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party after Nawaz was found guilty in 2017 of concealing assets related to Ho’s revelations. Sister Panama.
Sharif’s family and supporters say the incidents are politically motivated.
Both brothers have faced numerous corruption cases at the National Accountability Bureau, including under Khan as prime minister, but Shehbaz was not found guilty of any crime.