Shebaz Sharif, the current leader of the opposition in Pakistan, is the person most likely to replace Imran Khan as the prime minister.
Known domestically as a reliable, effective administrator, Mr Sharif led a successful bid this week to top Mr Khan’s government. A united opposition had moved a no-confidence motion against Mr Khan’s government and held his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), responsible for burgeoning inflation.
Mr Khan was you on 9 April after a week of political drama. He had initially tried to sidestep the vote by dissolving parliament and calling for early elections, but the Supreme Court ruled that unconstitutional and ordered the vote to go ahead.
The 69-year-old former cricketer has been facing mounting criticism over his performance, especially his handling of the country’s economy amid concerns of a record increase in inflation and rising deficits.
The current crisis is feared to bring Pakistan into political uncertainty once again.
Mr Sharif said this was a chance for a new beginning. “A new dawn has started… This alliance will rebuild Pakistan,” the 70-year-old said on Sunday.
Candidates for Pakistan’s next prime minister filed nomination papers on Sunday morning. The parliament will meet on Monday, 11 April, to elect its next leader.
Mr Sharif is the brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and has been the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly since August 2018. He is also the current leader of the PML-N and took charge after his brother, who formed the party and is currently in London, was disqualified from holding office.
Mr Sharif has been a politician for over two and a half decades and has thrice served as the chief minister of Punjab, Pakistan’s wealthiest state, making him the longest-serving head of the province.
His career has included years of self-exile in Saudi Arabia after a military coup deposed his brother’s government in 1999 and he faced charges of money laundering.
In September 2020, Mr Sharif was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau of Pakistan on charges of laundering over Rs 7,328m (£30m) in a scheme involving close associates and family members. He was later released on bail.
While Mr Sharif enjoys popular support, Mr Khan isn’t letting it go without a fight.
The former prime minister clung on for almost a week as a united opposition tried to remove him.
“I am going to struggle,” he said in an address to the nation on 8 April, ahead of the vote the next day. “I tell all of my supporters across Pakistan, on Sunday, after Isha [evening] prayers, you all have to come out of your homes and peacefully protest against this imported government that is trying to come to power.”
Mr Khan has also repeatedly blamed “foreign powers” for the move to oust him because he had taken what he termed independent foreign policy decisions.
The former cricket star, who was voted into power with a promise of acting against corruption, lost key allies in a matter of weeks.
His party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, faced a challenge from the joint front formed by two opposition parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N).
The last nail in the coffin for Mr Khan was when his key ally Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, the leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), announced that his party was joining the opposition seeking him.
Robbed of his majority, Mr Khan only held 164 votes out of the needed 172 to continue as prime minister.
Last week, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari claimed Mr Khan had “lost [his] majority” to continue and declared Mr Sharif would soon become the country’s prime minister, confirming earlier reports that he was the main contender.
“Imran Khan has now lost his majority. He is no longer the prime minister. The parliament session is tomorrow. Let’s hold voting tomorrow and settle this matter,” Mr Bhutto had said last month. “We can then start working on transparent elections and the journey towards restoration of democracy and an end to economic crisis can then begin.”