Two days after a no-confidence vote ousted Imran Khan as the Pakistan prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, was elected unopposed as the new premier of the South Asian nation on Monday, 11 April.
The erstwhile Leader of Opposition had been nominated by the united Opposition as their joint candidate for the prime minister’s election, which took place on Monday in the National Assembly.
Ahead of the election, Imran Khan had resigned as a member of the National Assembly and his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), boycotted the voting and the lawmakers staged a walkout. This included Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who was the PTI's prime ministerial candidate.
As Imran Khan lost the trust vote in the National Assembly in a midnight political drama, on 9 April, Sharif said, “We will not take revenge on anyone, we will not do injustice to anyone and we will not put anyone in jail, the law will take its own path. Justice will prevail in Pakistan.”
Exile and Return to Politics
Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of three-time former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was seen leading the charge against Imran Khan in the past few weeks.
He was elected to the National Assembly in 1990. However, after the military coup of 1999, both Shehbaz and Nawaz had to spent several years in exile in Saudi Arabia. Like his elder brother, Shehbaz Sharif has also been accused of corruption.
He returned to Pakistan in 2007. He was nominated for the post of PML-N president in 2017, when his brother was found guilty on charges of concealing assets related to the Panama Papers, and therefore, disqualified from holding office.
Man of Action and an "Old Friend" of China
According to a Reuters report, he is known for his “can-do” administrative style and he also enjoys friendly relations with Pakistan's military which has control over the defence and external affairs policies of the country.
During his three terms as the chief minister of Pakistan's Punjab province, he had worked closely with China on Beijing-funded developmental projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative and on certain occasions even drawn praises from Chinese officials for being a man of action.
Outgoing Chinese consul general Long Dingbin was reported to have called Sharif a "an old friend of China" while China Vice-Minister Zheng Xiaosong gave Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif the title of ‘Shehbaz Speed’ for completing projects before schedule.
In a sharp contrast to Imran Khan's anti-US stance, Sharif, in a recent interview, said that the ties with the US are important for Pakistan for better or for worse.
On being asked why Pakistan must appease the US, he reportedly said, "Beggars can't be choosers, please understand. We have to feed our nation. We have to send our children to school, we can't fight with someone, can't raise slogans against others."
This comment drew him a lot of flak, especially from the embattled PM Imran Khan who called him a "slave of America".
As Sharif takes the reins as the 23rd prime minister of Pakistan, his immediate challenge is to tackle the rising inflation in the country and the dip in its foreign exchange reserves.
(With inputs from Reuters.)