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Crowds cheer Imran Khan at rally ahead of PM vote in Pakistan

Thousands of people have gathered in the Pakistan capital Islamabad to voice support for opposition leader Imran Khan.

They gathered ahead of a meeting of Pakistan's parliament on Tuesday to elect a new prime minister following the disqualification of three-term PM Nawaz Sharif.

Mr Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League Party, which enjoys a comfortable majority in parliament, nominated Mr Sharif's long-time loyalist Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for the top slot on Saturday.

Mr Sharif proposed Mr Abbasi as interim prime minister until his brother Shahbaz Sharif, who is the chief minister of Punjab province, can compete in a by-election for the seat left vacant by his brother's disqualification.

The opposition is expected to name a candidate to challenge Mr Abassi in a vote in parliament, but he is expected to win.

Mr Sharif's party holds 188 of 342 seats in parliament's lower house and with additional votes from its allies is expected to obtain 214 votes. To win the top slot, Mr Abbasi needs only 172 votes.

Pakistan's Supreme Court disqualified Mr Sharif from office on Friday for not being honest and concealing assets. The probe against him began after his children were named in the leaked so-called Panama papers for allegedly owning off-shore accounts and properties.

Mr Sharif's party has resolved to file a review petition in the Supreme Court to reverse the disqualification.

The probe was triggered by petitions filed by the conservative Jamaat-e-Islami Party and cricket player-turned-politician Mr Khan.

Celebrating the Supreme Court verdict of ousting Mr Sharif from the premiership, Mr Khan said Sunday in Islamabad that the court verdict has given the nation hope and "laid the foundation for a new Pakistan".

Thousands of Mr Khan's jubilant supporters, chanting slogans and dancing to drum beats at a vast arena, raised placards reading "Prime Minister Imran Khan".

Addressing the crowd, Mr Khan said: "This nation is awakening now and determined to make Pakistan a great country free of corruption."

Mr Sharif has had a history of rocky relations with Pakistan's powerful military and he has been removed from office three times.

He was first elected as prime minister in 1990 and was hardly halfway through his five-year tenure when he was removed from office by the army's hand-picked president in 1993.

Mr Sharif made a comeback in the 1997 elections but again his government was toppled by then-army chief General Pervez Musharraf in a bloodless coup in October 1999.

Mr Sharif was tried for alleged hijacking, convicted and given a life prison sentence but later was exiled to Saudi Arabia. He returned to the country in 2007 after Benazir Bhutto struck a deal with General Musharraf. She was assassinated in December 2007 after an election rally in Rawalpindi.

In seven decades, no civilian government has ever completed its term in Pakistan. The country has been ruled by military generals for more than half of its 70-year history.

AP

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