A former Pakistani chief justice has taken the helm as his country's caretaker prime minister pending the outcome of parliamentary elections scheduled for July 25.
Nasir-ul-Mulk took the oath of office Friday in Islamabad from President Mamnoon Hussain. Mulk's swearing in was attended by the political and military leadership. It comes a day after the previous embattled government of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, or PML-N, headed by Nawaz Sharif, completed a full five-year term in office. The national and four provincial legislatures were dissolved.
This marks the second consecutive time an elected government has fulfilled its constitutional term in Pakistan's 70-year history, as the military, through direct coups and indirect manipulation, has either ruled the country or disrupted its democratic political transitions.
In a related development, the Election Commission said it will begin receiving nomination papers on Sunday from potential candidates seeking seats in the 342-member lower house of parliament and the four provincial assemblies. Candidates have until June 6 to file their papers.
The PML-N's victory in the 2013 elections had enabled Sharif to become prime minister for a historic third time.
Sharif's government, however, suffered a critical blow last July, when a landmark Supreme Court ruling ousted him from office and barred him from national politics for life for concealing his foreign financial assets.
Within days, the PML-N days elected Sharif aide Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as his successor to enable the party to complete its legal term.
An anti-corruption court trial is still underway against Sharif and his three children on charges stemming from the 2016 Panama Papers, leaked documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.The papers contained the names of three of Sharif's six children heading offshore companies that purchased four London luxury apartments.
Meanwhile, Sharif's beleaguered PML-N received a boost Friday when the Supreme Court allowed Khawaja Asif,a party stalwart and former foreign minister, to contest the July 25 election.
A lower court had ousted Asif from office over undeclared foreign income sources and banned him from politics for life. The prominent Pakistani politician challenged the verdict in the Supreme Court, which overturned his disqualification.
Dozens of Sharif's party members have in the meantime defected to other parties, mostly to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the party led by the popular opposition leader, Imran Khan. The former cricket hero-turned politician is being seen as the main challenger to the PML-N in next month's elections.
Khan is credited for leading legal battles against Sharif that ultimately led to Sharif's disqualification on corruption charges, although the ousted prime minister denies any wrongdoing and has indirectly accused the military of orchestrating his removal. The military rejects the accusation.
Source: Voice of America