| Senate Chairman administers Oath ceremony as President complained “discomfort” | New PM announces reliefs during his first speech as PM in the House | Secures 174 votes as PTI lawmakers boycott the process | Erdogan, Modi felicitate Shehbaz
By Asghar Ali Mubarak
ISLAMABAD: Following the ouster of PTI chairman Imran Khan from the office of the prime minister, the Opposition’s joint candidate Shehbaz Sharif was elected as the 23rd premier of Pakistan Monday.
Shehbaz secured 174 votes as opposed to PTI’s candidate Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who received no votes after his party decided to boycott the polling process.
The poll took place under the chairmanship of MNA Ayaz Sadiq, two days after the lower house of Parliament voted in favour of removing Imran Khan from office, following a nearly 14-hour standoff between the Opposition and Khan’s ruling party that started on Saturday morning.
The Monday session formally started after a brief delay with a recitation of the Holy Quran and naat, with NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri in the chair. The session, however, has been adjourned till 4pm on Wednesday, April 16.
Taking the floor, the newly elected prime minister Shehbaz thanked the Almighty Allah for his uncountable blessings.
He mentioned that Almighty Allah has protected the country which was also because of the hectic efforts of the leaders of the joint Opposition members. The premier mentioned that it was for the first time in the history of Pakistan that a prime minister was ousted through the no-confidence motion.
Terming Monday a “historic day”, he mentioned that the happiness of the people can be seen through the economic indicators. Shehbaz mentioned that the rupee regained its value — which was trading at Rs190 per dollar and closed at Rs182 per dollar Monday.
“Imran Khan was the person who said that when rupee gains Re1 against the US dollar then the prime minister of the country is a corrupt person now he should see that the rupee has recovered around Rs8,” he said.
He acknowledged the Supreme Court’s “unanimous” verdict saying that the day when the apex court gave its judgment should be marked as a “historic day” in the history of Pakistan.
The newly-elected prime minister said the Opposition was discussing the no-confidence motion days before Imran Khan’s “concocted threat letter controversy”.
“They say that this letter came to them on March 7, but our decisions were made way before that, so, if [what the previous government claimed] is a lie, then the matter should be disclosed transparently before the public,” he said.
Therefore, PM Shehbaz Sharif announced that the parliament’s security committee would be given a briefing on the “threat letter” to the members of the committee in presence of the armed forces personnel and bureaucrats — the director-general Inter-Services Intelligence, foreign secretary, and the ambassador who wrote it, who has now been transferred to Brussels.
“If there’s an iota of evidence that we were backed by foreign conspirators […] then with you Mr speaker and God as my witness, I will not think for another second and resign from the office of the prime minister,” PM Shehbaz Sharif said, vowing to hold an in-camera session of the security committee at the earliest.
The prime minister thanked his brother and ex-premier Nawaz Sharif for his support, while also lauding social media activists, press clubs, media houses, and lawyers for backing the Opposition’s struggle for democracy.
Moving towards the topic of economy, the newly-elected prime minister said if Pakistan were to progress, then it needs to be self-sufficient on the financial front.
“We will need to protect and respect the nation as neither was anyone a traitor nor are they traitors now,” the prime minister said, noting if Pakistan’s economy were to move forward, then, the government will have to use “dialogue” and not move towards a deadlock.
PM Shehbaz Sharif said hard work was required for Pakistan’s progress as if only statements could move the country forward, then during PTI’s tenure, we would have been among the leading nations.
The announcements include: The minimum wage will be jacked up to Rs25,000 (from April 1); 10% increase in pensions of retired civil, and military officials (from April 1); Cheap wheat to be introduced at utility stores; Laptop and technical education for youth. Reintroduction of Benazir Card; Appeal to industrialists to increase salaries of employees who earn up to Rs100,000 by 10%.
“We will need to wash out the effects of the previous government by working together, otherwise, we will fail our economy is in a bad situation right now,” the prime minister said.
PM Shehbaz Sharif said the new government would take steps to make Pakistan an “investment heaven” for investors as he noted their capital would help the country move forward.
He announced that despite Punjab “being the elder brother” if all the other provinces remain behind in terms of development, then it is not Pakistan’s development, it was just a single province’s development.
“…this servant of Pakistan vows to make sure that Pakistan will develop and not just Punjab,” Shehbaz said.
He said the government would reintroduce the Benazir Card and interlink it with the education sector in a bid to facilitate people whose children go to school.
“Our children should be equipped with great knowledge we will reintroduce this programme with consultation,” he said and lashed out at the PTI government for discontinuing it.
Speaking about foreign policy, Shehbaz said China has been Pakistan’s partner through thick and thin. “No one can snatch Pakistan and China’s friendship from us,” he said, calling it a “long-lasting relation.”
He also reiterated that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will be carried forward and the projects will move forward at a faster pace.
On relations with the United Kingdom, Shehbaz said that bilateral relations need to move forward as millions of Pakistanis live there, adding that the UK provided funding for education in all four provinces. Meanwhile, Shehbaz also maintained that relations with the US must also be established on equal grounds.
Speaking about India, the newly-elected prime minister lamented that despite them wanting peaceful ties with India, they know that until the Kashmir issue is resolved, relations between the two cannot be strengthened.
“Urging Indian premier Narendra Modi to understand the issues of the people living on both the sides; there is poverty, unemployment, medical issues, etc,” he said, questioning “why harming ourselves and the generations to come?”
He said Modi should come forward and resolve the Kashmir issue according to the will of the Kashmiris and reiterated that his government will continue to raise its voice for the people of Kashmir.
“The nation has two paths; one path is of self-respect while the other one is of slavery,” he said, appreciating Imran Khan for trusting him [Qureshi] by nominating him.
Calling the PTI a “relatively” new party compared to other parties, he said it has managed to leave a strong impression on the minds of the public.
Qureshi pointed towards the treasury benches, saying, the nation can see that on one side are people who share the same pro-country ideology and on the other side, people are only united and are sitting with several ideologies.
The PTI vice-chairman said: “In view of PTI members, the unity among the Opposition benches is unnatural because history knows that there is no ideological unity. among them”.
Recalling several incidents, he said: “History bears witness that they have always tried to bring each other down.”
Qureshi said that they may think that some of them [Opposition members] have won while the people on the treasury benches have lost; however, the nation showed them Sunday who are they standing with.
Qureshi went on to say that when Imran Khan met Donald Trump in the White House, he was wearing a Peshwari chappal, while during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, he was wearing Shalwar Kameez.
Amid constant calls from the deputy speaker urging members sitting on the Opposition benches to maintain the order of the House, Qureshi continued saying that the Opposition members have formed a temporary collision that would not last long, adding that Shahbaz Sharif knows he does not have the “support of the people.”
Lashing out at the Opposition parties, the ex-foreign minister said PPP and PML-N could not think of appointing someone outside their families for the top office of the prime minister and chief minister.
Qureshi said the PML-N and PPP were part of governments for 40 years but did not allow Imran Khan to even stay in power for even four years. “Were they not enough for you to introduce electoral reforms?”
The PTI leader said the people have rejected the coalition’s “imported government” — and it was not only witnessed in Pakistan but abroad as well.
“Let the people of Pakistan choose between an independent or an enslaved Pakistan […] do you want the Pakistan in which there are several diseases, or do you want a Pakistan which we envision,” the ex-foreign minister said.
Qureshi said in the “old Pakistan”, every child is in debt, a majority portion of the revenue goes into debt servicing, a “historic trade deficit”, International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) doors were knocked on, the GDP’s growth was stagnant, and unemployment was rising.
“In line with the party’s unanimous decision, we have decided not to partake in their (Opposition) illegal actions; we aspire for an independent Pakistan, and we announce to resign [from assemblies] today,” the PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced, followed by loud chants of “hum kya chahte hain? azadi.”
As the ex-foreign minister announced PTI’s decision, NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri also said his “conscience” does not allow him to hold the election for the new prime minister, therefore, he handed over the chair of the session to MNA Ayaz Sadiq — the senior-most member of the panel of chair.
Later, Shehbaz Sharif took oath on Monday as the 23rd prime minister of Pakistan. He was administered the oath by Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjarani as President Arif Alvi complained of “discomfort”, according to the president’s Twitter account, hours before the oath-taking ceremony. “the physician has examined him thoroughly and has advised him to rest for a few days.”
Following the development, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Monday congratulated Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on becoming the 23rd premier of Pakistan.
In his congratulatory message to Shehbaz on Twitter, PM Modi said: “Congratulations to H. E. Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif on his election as the Prime Minister of Pakistan.”
“India desires peace and stability in a region free of terror so that we can focus on our development challenges and ensure the well-being and prosperity of our people,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a telephonic conversation with Shehbaz, Turkish President Erdogan told the newly-elected prime minister that he was “extremely happy” about him being elected as the premier.
“I am sure that under your leadership, Pakistan-Turkey’s brotherly ties will bolster,” said Erdogan, who called Shehbaz hours after the lower house of the Parliament elected him.
In response, Shehbaz said he aspired to bring both the countries closer during his tenure as the prime minister and thanked Erdogan for his congratulatory telephonic call.