ISLAMABAD: Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, elected as Pakistan’s new prime minister Tuesday, is expected to act as a placeholder for the Sharif dynasty after three-time premier Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court.
Considered highly intelligent and a long-time Sharif loyalist, the 58-year-old is the former federal minister for petroleum and natural resources, and a businessman who launched the country’s most successful private airline.
After winning a parliamentary vote Tuesday he is expected to serve as prime minister until Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz, a provincial minister, can be elected to the national assembly and take over the leadership.
Abbasi was appointed oil minister when former premier Sharif won his third term in 2013.
Educated in the United States at George Washington University, Abbasi was born in the southern port city of Karachi but is a member of the National Assembly for Murree — a hill station in northern Punjab that is a favourite holiday destination for Sharif.
Abbasi worked in the US and Saudi Arabia as an electrical engineer before joining politics after his father, a minister in General Zia ul-Haq’s government, was killed when an ammunition depot in Rawalpindi in 1988.
Abbasi has been elected six times as a member of the National Assembly since then, and has previously served as minister for commerce and defence production.
He was the chairman of national flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) from 1997 to 1999, until General Pervez Musharraf seized power, overthrowing Sharif’s second government.
Abbasi was arrested after the coup and imprisoned for two years before being released.
In 2003, he setup an airline, Air Blue, the country’s most successful private airline and challenger to PIA.