Shahid Khaqan Abbasi: What You Need to Know About Pakistan’s New Prime Minister

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a politician educated in the United States, was elected prime minister of Pakistan on Tuesday. Parliament held a special election to replace his predecessor and mentor, who was disqualified on corruption charges.

Here is what you need to know about Pakistan’s new leader.
A Staunch Loyalist

A steadfast ally of three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Mr. Abbasi, 58, was named interim prime minister last week after the Supreme Court disqualified Mr. Sharif from office and he was forced to resign.

Mr. Abbasi has gone to prison for his political patron. He spent two years behind bars after a 1999 coup, in which Mr. Sharif was overthrown by Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Mr. Abbasi at the time was pressured by the military to testify against Mr. Sharif, but he refused and was jailed. He was later acquitted.

That loyalty to Mr. Sharif was later repaid with a high-profile cabinet position when the ousted leader returned to power in 2013. It is assumed that Mr. Abbasi is holding the office until Mr. Sharif’s brother Shehbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab Province, wins a seat in Parliament in a coming by-election and can become prime minister.

A Long Career
Mr. Abbasi is a member of the governing party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. He has been elected to Parliament six times, losing an election only once.

After losing his first and only election in 2002, Mr. Abbasi founded Airblue Limited, a budget carrier. After being elected to Parliament in 2008, he was named commerce minister, and he was appointed minister of petroleum and natural resources in 2013. He held that position until last week, when Mr. Sharif’s cabinet was disbanded by the Supreme Court.

An American Education
Mr. Abbasi comes from a wealthy and well-connected political family. His father was a member of Parliament and a commodore in the Pakistani Air Force. His father-in-law was director general of the powerful military intelligence agency, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence.

An electrical engineer by training, he received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a master’s from George Washington University in Washington.

People who know him, including businessmen who have dealt with him, say he is highly intelligent and has a sharp sense of humor. In addition to his holdings in Airblue, he is said to own property in his hometown, Muree, and a restaurant business, making him one of Parliament’s richest members, according to the local news media.

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