Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is the new PM
* Interim PM says one day the ‘real prime minister’ of Pakistan will come back and sit on the chair * Pledges to fulfill promises made by deposed prime minister to people
by By Muhammad Asad Chaudhry
ISLAMABAD: Days after the Supreme Court disqualified Nawaz Sharif after months of proceedings in Panamagate case, the National Assembly on Tuesday elected Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) loyalist Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as new Leader of the House, who later in the evening took oath as 18th prime minister of the country, though for an interim period until Nawaz’s nominated successor, his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif, is elected to the 342-member House and eventually takes the top office.
Abbasi secured 221 votes against Pakistan People’s Party-Parliamentarian’s Syed Naveed Qamar who got 47 votes. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q)’s joint candidate Sheikh Rashid fetched 33 votes while Sahabzada Tariqullah of Jamaat-e-Islami bagged four votes.
Awami National Party (ANP) and Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) abstained from the voting process while Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) withdrew its candidate in favour of PML-N’s Abbasi.
In his maiden speech to the assembly soon after being elected leader of the house, Abbasi expressed his loyalty with ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and declared that “he (Nawaz) is still present on the seat which I hold today.” “Insha Allah (God willing), one day the real prime minister of this country will come back and sit on this chair,” he said.
Abbasi said, “I am grateful to you all for following the democratic process, no matter you voted for or against me. I am grateful to the people of Pakistan and I am also grateful to the ‘people’s prime minister’ (Nawaz Sharif),” he said, and added, “I am also grateful to the opposition and Imran Khan as well, for remembering us in their daily slander.”
On SC’s verdict disqualifying Nawaz Sharif, Abbasi said, “An unprecedented decision was taken last Friday. We accepted it as it was. We did not challenge the court ... there was no division in our ranks ... whoever the prime minister [Nawaz Sharif] named was supported unanimously,” he said.
“Within four days, the democratic process is back on track. There were no defections. There was no dissension in our ranks,” he said, and added, “Justice requires that 1,000 guilty people may go free, but a single innocent person should be convicted. I will not go into details of the Friday’s decision ... I only want to say that there will soon be another court, the one held by the people ... there will be no JIT there.”
Abbasi said there were no allegations of corruption against Nawaz Sharif. “His only fault is that he made Pakistan a nuclear power, stabilised economy, brought 60 billion dollar investment under CPEC, worked day and night to end load shedding, imported LNG to run industry and introduced politics of decency,” he maintained.
Abbasi declared to continue the policies of deposed prime minister in all sectors including education, health, railway, agriculture and economy. Referring to ongoing power projects, he said there will be no load shedding after November since 10,000 megawatt of additional electricity was being added to the national grid.
Referred to problems in Karachi, Abbasi said the package announced by former prime minister for the mega city would be implemented in true letter and spirit. He said development of FATA would be expedited. "Whether it's 45 days or 45 hours, I am the prime minister of Pakistan and I am here to work, not keep the seat warm," he said.
Abbasi expressed his intention to ban licences of automatic weapons for general public. While urging people to pay taxes, he announced to take stern action against those involved in tax evasion. "Politics has become so abusive … it is duty of this House to work for uplift of our image and credibility", he urged his colleagues, adding, "Every institution will have to act according to the constitution of Pakistan we all are riding the same boat. If it sinks, everyone will sink."
Praising the former finance minister Ishaq Dar as most 'hardworking member' of the previous cabinet, Abbasi said, "His polices provided economic space to the country."
PPP's Naveed Qamar in his speech said that the democratic process will go on and the business of the House will continue as "individuals come and go".
Sheikh Rashid said that it would have been better if the prime minister-elect had spoken on foreign policy.
'Sher' vs 'chor': The Lower House looked like a public place as PML-N supporters from the galleries overcrowded joined their voices with lawmakers present inside the hall in chanting sloganslike "Daikho daikho kon aya, Sher aya Sher aya" and "Wazir-e-Azam Nawaz Sharif."
The members of ruling party also carried the portraits of disqualified prime minister Nawaz Sharif and one of his picture was also placed by an MNA in front of the rostrum during Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's speech.
Though PTI members responded with the slogan of "Chor, Chor", but their chants were eclipsed due to excessive number of lawmakers from PML-N coupled with support from galleries.
Sh Rashid: During the proceeding, PML-N MNA and former state minister Abid Sher Ali and some others used abusive language against Sheikh Rashid. Speaker Ayaz Sadiq warned Abid but he did not bother and continued his slanderous speech against AML chief.
Interestingly, none form the PTI came forward to defend Rashid.
At one stage, when Capitan (r) Safdar attacked the personal life of Imran Khan, PTI lawmaker Murad Saeed retaliated harshly but the situation came under control when other parliamentarians intervened.
During his speech, when Sh Rashid mentioned the name of Maryam Nawaz in connection with Dawn Leaks, Capitan (r) Safdar stood up on his seat and warned, "I will not allow anybody to mention names of my family with disrespect in this House." Other party MNAs also backed him, forcing Sh Rashid to end his speech. "If I am killed someday, Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and their family will be responsible for my murder," Sh Rashid said while addressing the speaker.
Nisar Ali Khan: Throughout the proceeding, former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan looked indifferent to the election process, unlike Kh Saad Rafique, Kh Asif and others.
A group of MNAs surrounded him when speaker asked the lawmakers to leave the hall to cast their votes. Nisar was the first to return to the House. He went to the attorney general of Pakistan and held one-on-one discussion with him for around 15 minutes.
He remained in the House during the speech of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi but left before its adjournment.