ISLAMABAD: Election of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the stopgap prime minister with a thumping majority came as a massive slap in the face of those who were spreading rumours that a strong group of fifty members plus of the National Assembly (MNAs) belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML) will defect.
In reality, Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification further cemented the unity in the PML-N, which emerged as a monolithic entity at a time when a powerful campaign was on claiming that the ruling party is on the verge of collapse with numerous defections. Only the opposite happened.
It was being speculated by agenda driven people that the party is over as it will not be in a position to bear the brunt and shock of Nawaz Sharif’s ineligibility. Those, who were reading the obituary of the PML-N, were deeply frustrated and depressed with the impressive show in the National Assembly with a flawless smoothness.
On the contrary, the performance of the opposition parties was extremely dismal as they remained disjointed and divided having nothing common to share notwithstanding their tall claims. Their unity was nailed at the very outset when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) took the lead in fielding Sheikh Rashid without consultations with other opposition groups.
The elements, which were out to sabotage the democratic process basing their conspiracies on Nawaz Sharif’s ouster by the Supreme Court, were demoralized as democracy was back on track. After an unprecedented shock, the PML-N acted sensibly; and did not resort to any defiance of the court judgment as Nawaz Sharif quickly bowed before it and relinquished the office even before the issuance of a notification by the Election Commission of Pakistan.
The new prime minister repeatedly paid flowing tributes to the deposed premier which he deserved. His anguish over the punishment imposed on Nawaz Sharif became more pronounced when he said he was not happy to be the prime minister. “Nawaz Sharif is still present on this chair and he was penalized for making Pakistan nuclear; bringing US$60 billion to Pakistan and adding 10,000 megawatt electricity to the national grid. We implemented in letter and spirit the court judgment that has not been accepted by masses but there will be another people’s court where there will be no JIT (Joint Investigation Team).”
In a classic backhanded compliment, he also expressed his gratitude to Imran Khan for remembering “us” in his abuses.
The torment and torture of Nawaz Sharif’s persecutors might have gone miles high after knowing that the debating hall of the National Assembly resounded with slogans eulogizing him and that several MNAs were holding posters inscribed with his picture.
“For thirty years, I have been with Nawaz Sharif and he has never committed corruption. None of our 200 MNAs was candidate for the prime minister. The army, bureaucracy and intelligence agencies are aboard the same boat and all will drown if it sinks because of any hole in it,” Abbasi stated.
On one side was the absolute unity in the PML-N to the consternation of its detractors, while on the other was the damning attack by PTI MNA Ayesha Gulalai on Imran Khan in a very harsh language while saying goodbye to his party just hours before the voting in the prime ministerial election. Her denunciation came out as a bombshell for the PTI, which initially found itself in a tight corner to respond.
Imran Khan’s absence from the National Assembly session was incomprehensible although a top PTI leader was earlier quoted as saying that he has accepted the “request” from his MNAs to attend the session. Had he been present in the session, he would have reflected his respect for the parliament where his number one foe, Nawaz Sharif, was no more there. His absence deprived his choice candidate, Sheikh Rashid, of one vote. In the first instance, it was a freak decision of the PTI to sponsor an MNA for the election who did not belong to it.
It was inappropriate on the part of PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi not to shake hands with Abbasi when he approached him. By doing so, the PTI leader, who generally doesn’t do such indecent things, frittered away even the basic norm although the new prime minister was elected democratically by the sweeping vote.