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Abbasi named interim PM in Pakistan as Sharif hits out at 'baseless' allegations

Pakistan's ruling party has named senior politician Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as successor to the deposed prime minister, a day after the Supreme Court removed Nawaz Sharif from office for concealing assets.

Mr Sharif proposed Mr Abbasi as interim prime minister at the meeting of the Pakistan Muslim League party in Islamabad.

His request was endorsed by politicians from his party.

Because Mr Sharif's party enjoys a comfortable majority in the parliament, his longtime loyalist Mr Abbasi is expected to easily win the required vote when the National Assembly meets next week.

In a televised speech on Saturday, Mr Sharif said that his younger brother, Shahbaz, who is currently chief minister in Punjab province, would contest the election to the National Assembly in the seat which fell vacant with his removal.

In an emotional appeal, Mr Sharif sought support for Shahbaz as a future full-time premier.

Mr Sharif said he tried his best to put Pakistan on the path of progress but was unfairly penalised with his disqualification.

"I was not expecting what happened to me yesterday," he said.

Mr Sharif said he was removed by the Supreme Court on "baseless allegations".

He said the opposition had campaigned against him in recent years, accusing him and his family of indulging in alleged corruption.

"My hands are clean and none of my family members misused government funds," he said.

It was his first public response to Friday's court ruling.

Mr Sharif said he felt saddened by his removal as he believed he had worked sincerely for the nation like "a soldier".

He said history would now decide whether the court's decision was good for Pakistan.

Mr Sharif defended his record, saying he always paid his taxes.

His daughter Maryam Nawaz said in a tweet that her father would "return with greater force", and asked her party to "stay strong".

Mr Abbasi vowed to "continue the mission" of Mr Sharif.

He said he was grateful to Mr Sharif for naming him premier, even though it will only be for a brief period.

Saturday's developments came amid a serious political crisis that gripped Pakistan because of Mr Sharif's removal, with politicians and legal experts wondering who was running the government.

Earlier, Raja Zafarul Haq, a senior leader from Mr Sharif's party, said Pakistan would continue without a prime minister until the National Assembly elects a new one.

"We are without a prime minister even now," he said.

Mr Haq said that although the court in Friday's ruling asked figurehead President Mamnoon Hussain to "ensure continuation of the democratic process", the reality was that the country was still facing a political crisis.

He said there was no provision in the constitution about the appointment of an acting prime minister.

He said Mr Sharif might have stayed in power until the appointment of a new prime minister if judges had not sacked him effective immediately.

Mr Sharif resigned on Friday, saying he had reservations about the court ruling.

He has been banned from participating in politics for not being "truthful and honest".

His party's leaders have noted, however, that their party still enjoys a majority and will stay in power until general elections are held in June 2018.

Earlier, hundreds of supporters of Mr Sharif rallied in Islamabad against his disqualification.

The demonstrators marched on a key road, chanting slogans before peacefully dispersing.

Opposition leader Imran Khan asked his supporters to travel to Islamabad on Sunday to celebrate Mr Sharif's removal.

Mr Sharif, 67, who has served three separate stints as prime minister, has a history of rocky relations with Pakistan's powerful military.

He was first dismissed from power by the army's hand-picked president in 1993 about midway through his five-year term.

In 1999, military dictator General Pervez Musharraf overthrew Mr Sharif in a bloodless coup and exiled him to Saudi Arabia.

The military has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 70-year history and has been unwilling to see its influence challenged.

AP

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