Pakistan's Supreme Court on Friday disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from public office over long-running corruption allegations, a decision that ousts him from the premiership for the third time in a chequered political career.
"He is disqualified as a member of the parliament so he has ceased to be holding the office of Prime Minister," Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan told the packed courtroom in Islamabad.
As the verdict was announced opposition supporters erupted in applause, rushing into the street chanting slogans and handing out sweets in celebration.
Within a short while, Nawaz Sharif resigned on Friday following Supreme Court's verdict to disqualify him from holding the post following a probe that revealed illegal family wealth stashed abroad.
The decision brings to an unceremonious end Sharif's third term in power, roughly a year before the scheduled General Election. Staying in power until then would have made him the first Prime Minister of Pakistan to complete a full five-year term.
The much-awaited ruling in what came to be known as the Panama Papers case stunned the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which feebly said that all was not over for Sharif and he would remain its leader.
Here then is a list of some of the names in the hat to replace Sharif and take over as interim prime minister:
PTI had earlier stated that Defence Minister Khawaja Asif will most likely become the interim prime minister for 45 days till Shehbaz Sharif (Nawaz's brother and Punjab province chief minister) is elected in by-polls, according to Geo News. Sources told Geo News that it was decided in a high-level huddle of ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N).
According to Pakistan's Ministry for Water & Power, Asif was born on 9 August, 1949 in Sialkot and is a politician of PML-N who was elected to the National Assembly for the fifth time in 2013.
Asif has also been a Senator between 1991 and 1993 and has briefly held the portfolio of federal minister for petroleum and natural resources.
Dawn further reported that Asif has evolved differences with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and had faced court proceedings for allegedly having dual nationality, although the charges were dropped later.
As Shahbaz is not a member of the National Assembly, he would have to contest elections if he was chosen as Nawaz's successor. The News International reported that while Asif could be made interim prime minister, Shahbaz may also be elected prime minister.
Chief minister of Pakistan's most populous province, Shahbaz had held this position earlier from 1997 to 1999, according to another report in Dawn. Born on 23 September, 1951, the "astute businessman" began his political career as member of the Punjab Assembly in 1988. He became the opposition leader of Punjab Assembly in 1993.
Shahbaz is considered to be a powerful administrator and began initiatives for Punjab province with emphasis on health, education and environment.
Sardar Ayaz Sadiq
The Speaker of the National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq is another strong candidate for next prime minister who is said to have the ear of the ruling Sharif family.
Sadiq gained Sharif's trust after he defeated the PML-N leader's main rival, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, in a hotly contested race for a Lahore seat in the 2013 general election.
Sadiq lost the seat two years later following allegations of vote rigging, only to be re-elected in a by-election, narrowly beating another close aide of Khan. He was restored as the speaker after his re-election.
Sadiq began his political career as a supporter of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf party, but quit to contest the 2002 elections on a PML-N ticket.
A US-educated lawmaker, Ahsan Iqbal hails from a political family that has long been associated with Sharif's PML-N party.
Iqbal is considered the development brains of the party and a visionary leader.
He currently heads the federal planning and development ministry, having previously served as minister for education and minorities. He has also worked as deputy chairman of the Planning Commission from 1998 to 1999 during Sharif's second term.
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, a stalwart of the PML-N, was until recently considered the prime candidate to succeed Sharif.
But relations between the two have recently cooled, with some sources suggesting that Sharif is concerned that the vocal Nisar could be positioning himself to wrest control of the party from the embattled prime minister.
Speculation this week that he could be about to resign his seat has heightened the intrigue surrounding his relationship with Sharif.
Unlike Sharif's other key allies, Nisar has close ties with the powerful military, often serving as broker between the two — a relationship that would serve Nisar well if he decided to make an independent bid for the top office.
With inputs from AFP
Updated Date: Jul 28, 2017 16:02:06 IST