ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Tuesday elected senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) parliamentarian Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the new prime minister with a heavy margin.
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi secured 221 votes in the House of 340 sitting members, while Syed Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was on the top amongst candidates of a divided opposition with 47 votes. Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, who was nominated by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), managed 33 votes, while Sahibzada Tariqullah of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) got four votes of his party.
Soon after his election on Tuesday as the 18th prime minister with heavy majority following the disqualification of Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi while pledging to maintain dignity and sanctity of the National Assembly said Nawaz Sharif will return as the prime minister again.
“We the government, opposition, army and judiciary are sailing in the same boat which will sink if damaged,” the newly-elected Leader of the House in his maiden address to the National Assembly said, adding that the journey of democracy in the country had resumed.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan, Jahangir Tareen and Hamza Shahbaz Sharif were prominent absentees in the National Assembly proceedings on Tuesday. The two parties, Awami National Party (ANP) and Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-Mengal), abstained from voting. Ghulam Ahmad Bilour of the ANP and Muhammad Esa Noori from BNP-Mengal continued to occupy their seats when the voting was in progress.
The National Assembly witnessed pandemonium during the proceedings as the members from the government and the opposition side continuedsloganeering against each other’s leadership. The sloganeering created a bad taste in the House as the members from the PML-N and PTI came closer to each other, but the senior parliamentarians averted any scuffle.
The PML-N lawmakers after casting their votes returned to the House while carrying portraits of Nawaz Sharif. Tehmina Daultana of the PML-N hanged the portrait of Nawaz Sharif at back of seat which was later to be occupied by the newly-elected prime minister. The PML-N workers sitting in the visitors galleries were also not controllable as they continued raising slogans in support of their party and Nawaz Sharif. They also hooted Shaikh Rasheed Ahmad calling him as ‘Sheeda Talli’.
As Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad of Awami Muslim League (AML) during his speech referred to NewsLeaks while naming Maryam Nawaz, the PML-N parliamentarians Captain (retd) Safdar and Chaudhry Abid Sher Ali got infuriated and attempted to move towards the lone AML member while speaking in a loud voice. “I am holding the Sharif family responsible if anything happened to me,” he said.
The opposition members continued raising slogans of LNG, LNG during the speech of the prime minister. “I challenge you to prove the allegations against me,” Shahid Khaqan said, adding that what he earned was through hard work. He said he will answer every allegation.
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has been elevated to the slot of the prime minister for a period of 45 days before the time Shahbaz Sharif is elected as the permanent premier till the government completes its tenure on June 04, next year. It may be pointed out here that Nawaz Sharif secured 244 votes when there were 317 sitting MNAs in the National Assembly for his election as the prime minister following landslide victory in the 2013 general elections.
During his speech, the newly-elected prime minister showered praise on former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, saying he did not commit any corruption. He said the verdict against the top PML-N leader was unique one. He said Nawaz Sharif will become the prime minister again. “There will be another court where there will be no JIT and we all will be witness to his innocence,” the prime minister said.
Referring to the Supreme Court verdict in the Panama Papers case, he said it has no precedent but the PML-N accepted it in letter and spirit and implemented the verdict. He said legal experts are not ready to accept this judgment and the people of Pakistan have rejected it. He said the PML-N had accepted the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Panama Papers case, though the people had rejected Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification.
Shahid Khaqan said Nawaz Sharif was the real prime minister and was hopeful that one day he would return to his seat. He also thanked Nawaz Sharif for nominating him for the prime minister’s slot and also thanked the opposition parties for participating in the election process.
Referring to his 30-year affiliation with Nawaz Sharif, he said he could testify that the former prime minister had never been involved in corruption. “Even the MNAs from Multan and Rawalpindi, and my brothers from Awami National Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Jamaat-e-Islami will also testify the same,” he said. He said the only fault was that he made Pakistan a nuclear power, stabilised economy, brought 60 billion dollars investment to the country under CPEC, worked hard to end loadshedding, imported LNG to run industry and introduced politics of decency.
The prime minister said the slot of the premier was considered as the peak point in any politician’s career but no PML-N parliamentarian aspired for the prestigious seat. “The man chosen by the party is standing before you in the House,” Abbasi said.
The PM said he very well knew the load of the prime ministership. He said he had come to work and not to waste time. “This office has witnessed prime ministers including Liaquat Ali Khan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, Muhammad Khan Junejo, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali and Nawaz Sharif,” he said. Abbasi said politics had become an abuse in the country and required a collective effort by the members of the House to restore its sanctity and respect.
Talking about his priorities, the newly-elected PM said if supported by the federal cabinet, he would go after non-tax payers, saying they would have to pay tax according to their lifestyle and justify their earnings.
Shahid Khaqan said the people enjoying luxurious lifestyles with palatial houses and glossy vehicles had to justify their incomes, promising that they would be made to cough up taxes, once the cabinet permits him to go ahead with his plans. He said generally, politicians were blamed for not being sincere to their job and urged them to set the precedent in that regard. He urged that taxes should be paid for development, welfare and security of the country.
About agriculture, he reiterated that being the backbone of the economy, efforts would be made to give it more support and incentives. He said display of automatic weapons by private security guards would be controlled, regretting that the same trend is also on the rise on roads of the federal capital. He referred to the problems of Karachi and said the package announced by Nawaz Sharif for the mega city would be implemented and development of Fata would be expedited.
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi thanked the National Assembly members for reposing confidence in him and also thanked the opposition for remembering them in their abusive language during public gatherings. He said his party members could respond in a similar manner, but they were under the instructions of their leader Nawaz Sharif who have abstained them from stooping too low.
Syed Naveed Qamar, who was the runner-up with 47 votes, advised the newly-elected PM to make parliament stronger.He said parliament will only be stronger if the PM pays attention to the advice generated from parliament rather than looking towards bureaucracy. “The advice you get from technocrats and others will sound very logical, but the advice you get from this House will be that which matters to the people.”
Offering the opposition’s support to the newly-elected PM, he said the opposition will support him as long as he will work in the larger interest of the country.Sheikh Rasheed also congratulated Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on becoming the prime minister and said that it would have been great if the new PM had talked about foreign policy in his speech.
He said that in CPEC projects, the Chinese contractor had been given veto power and they were given the contracts without competition. “The Chinese even bring their labourers for the projects under the CPEC and we have acquired loans on higher interest rates from Chinese banks,” he added.