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Pakistan’s Would-Be PM Known for China Cooperation

The younger brother of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz, 70, is leading a bid by the opposition in parliament to topple Imran Khan

New Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif
Shehbaz Sharif, the head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, said the cabinet had been formed after consultations with his elder brother and three-time prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. Photo: Reuters


Shehbaz Sharif, the person most likely to be Pakistan’s next prime minister, is little known outside his home country but has a reputation domestically as an effective administrator rather than as a politician.

The younger brother of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz, 70, is leading a bid by the opposition in parliament to topple Imran Khan, and if a vote of no-confidence goes ahead on Saturday he is widely expected to replace Khan.

Analysts say Sharif, unlike Nawaz, enjoys amicable relations with Pakistan’s military, which traditionally controls foreign and defence policy in the nuclear-armed nation of 220 million people.

Pakistan’s generals have directly intervened to topple civilian governments three times, and no prime minister has finished a full five-year term since the South Asian state’s independence from Britain in 1947.

Sharif, part of a wealthy dynasty, is best known for his direct, “can-do” administrative style, which was on display when, as chief minister of Punjab province, he worked closely with China on Beijing-funded projects.

As chief minister of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, Sharif planned and executed a number of ambitious infrastructure mega-projects, including Pakistan’s first modern mass transport system in his hometown of Lahore.

He also said in an interview last week that good relations with the US were critical for Pakistan for better or for worse, in stark contrast to Khan’s recently antagonistic relationship with Washington.

There are still several procedural steps before Sharif can become Pakistan’s 23rd prime minister, not including caretaker administrations, although the opposition has consistently identified him as its sole candidate.

If he does take on the role, he faces immediate challenges, not least Pakistan’s crumbling economy, which has been hit by high inflation, a tumbling local currency and rapidly declining foreign exchange reserves.

Analysts also say Sharif will not act with complete independence as he will have to work on a collective agenda with the others opposition parties and his brother.


  • Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell



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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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