Speculation is rife about who the country's next prime minister will be after the Supreme Court (SC), in a landmark ruling on the Panama Papers case, disqualified Nawaz Sharif from holding public office on Friday.
As head of the ruling PML-N, Nawaz will be able to nominate a successor ─ a candidate who will be put to a vote in the National Assembly — a rubber stamp affair as the party holds a strong majority in the house.
Nawaz Sharif, during a party meeting held at PM House today following the SC verdict, said he had received suggestions that his brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, be considered a contender for prime minister, well-placed PML-N sources present at the meeting told DawnNews.
There was no resistance to Nawaz's proposal, which was met with applause, the sources said.
However, they added, Nawaz was concerned about who would take up the mantle of CM Punjab if Shahbaz took the reins as prime minister ─ a position that would require him to be elected to the National Assembly.
A couple of attendees of the meeting named Hamza Shahbaz, Shahbaz Sharif's son, as a possible contender for the post of CM Punjab, but Nawaz Sharif showed little interest in the suggestion, neither agreeing nor disagreeing with it, the sources told DawnNews.
Who are Nawaz's possible successors?
Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif
If Nawaz Sharif selects his brother to succeed him, Shahbaz Sharif would first have to win a by-election for a seat in the National Assembly ─ a process which would take at least 45 days.
NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq
Sadiq was elected from Lahore's NA-122 constituency in the 2013 General Election, defeating Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan. The PTI challenged the election results, leading to the deseating of Sadiq and re-polling in the constituency. Sadiq then defeated PTI's Aleem Khan to retake the constituency, also referred to as the 'Takht-i-Lahore'.
Pundits say Nawaz could select Sadiq as his successor just to annoy Imran Khan, who spearheaded the Panamagate petition against the Sharif family.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif
Asif has been a harsh critic of the military and its propensity to involve itself in the country's civilian affairs. He was elected from Sialkot.
Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
Abbasi is another close ally of Sharif. He faced charges along with Nawaz Sharif following the 1999 coup by former president Pervez Musharraf who overthrew Nawaz.
Abbasi was elected from Murree.
Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal
An engineering graduate, Iqbal has been a member of the PML-N since 1988.
He studied business in the United States and is considered a close Sharif ally. He was elected from Narowal.
Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan
Also an engineer, Khan was elected from the industrial city of Gujranwala, a stronghold of the Sharif family.