PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif was elected as the 23rd prime minister of Pakistan after 174 lawmakers voted in his favour after Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNAs boycotted the election.
PTI MNAs had walked out of the halls, with Shah Mahmood Qureshi — who was the party’s candidate for the top slot — announcing that they would be resigning en masse from the NA.
After the PTI boycotted the elections and walked out of the assembly, Shehbaz remained the lone contender for the prime minister’s slot and was consequently elected as the country’s chief executive.
PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq presided over today’s session after Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri said his conscience did not allow him to conduct the session.
Following his election, Shehbaz announced several policy measures he intended to take as the prime minister, with a particular focus on the economy and foreign relations.
- Minimum wage to be increased to Rs25,000 from April 1
- 10pc increase in pensions from April 1
- Wheat flour to be made available at a reduced price under a Ramazan package
- Shehbaz commits to making Pakistan a “paradise for investments”
- High electricity prices will be addressed
- Measures to be taken for the progress of smaller provinces, where the youth will be given technical education and laptops
- Ties to be strengthened with China, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, UK and Iran
- Good ties with India conditional on the “just” resolution of Kashmir dispute
- Voice will be raised for Kashmiris, Palestinians and Afghanistan
- Shehbaz expressed the resolve to improve the economy through hard work and national unity.
- The newly elected prime minister announced that he would be making arrangements for an in-camera briefing of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security to discuss and determine the authenticity of a cable that the PTI claimed contained evidence of a foreign conspiracy to topple its government.
- Benazir card to be reintroduced
Voting and the result
After taking the chair of the speaker, Sadiq read out the rules and procedure for the election of the prime minister and asked for the bells to ring for five minutes so that all lawmakers could come inside the halls before the voting began.
He said after the bells stopped ringing, the assembly’s entrances and exits would be locked and would remain so until the voting concluded.
Thereafter, Sadiq read out the names of the contenders, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and PTI’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi. In a slip of tongue, he named PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif as one of the contenders initially and quickly corrected himself, clarifying that he meant to say Shehbaz.
“I apologise Shehbaz sahab, Nawaz’s name remains in my heart.”
Sadiq then asked the lawmakers supporting Shehbaz to proceed to lobbies on his left side for voting. Similarly, he asked those who wanted to vote in favour of Qureshi to proceed to the lobby on his right side to cast their votes.
Announcing the result of the premier’s election, Sadiq reminisced that he had also chaired a session during which PML-N supremo and Shehbaz’s elder brother was elected as the premier.
“And today, I have the honour of chairing the session for Shehbaz Sharif’s election,” he said.
“Mian Mohammad Shehbaz Sharif has secured 174 votes,” he announced. “Mian Mohammad Shehbaz Sharif has been … elected as the prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”
As soon as Sadiq announced the result, lawmakers began shouting slogans in favour of Shehbaz and Nawaz.
The speaker then asked Shehbaz to move to the seat of the prime minister in the NA, following which he shifted to the treasury benches amid cheers, with other members of the former joint opposition following suit.
‘Big day for the nation’
In his maiden address to the house as the prime minister, Shehbaz thanked Allah for “saving Pakistan”.
He said it was the first time in Pakistan’s history that a no-confidence motion against a prime minister had been successful. “And good has prevailed over evil.”
Shehbaz said today was a “big day” for the entire nation when a “selected” prime minister was sent packing in a legal and constitutional manner.
He added that the US dollar’s value declining by Rs8 signified the “happiness of the people”.
The newly elected prime minister also thanked the Supreme Court (SC) for burying the doctrine of necessity forever. “In the future, no one will be able to rely on it,” he said.
He said the day when the SC ruled against the dismissal of the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan by Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri should be remembered as one when the supremacy of the Constitution and parliament was established.
Shehbaz said a “drama” had been going on over the past few weeks and lies were being told about a “letter”, which was said to contain evidence of a foreign conspiracy to topple the PTI government.
He said the deputy speaker had waved the cable yesterday in the assembly and requested the NA secretary to show it to him (Shehbaz), who was the leader of the opposition at the time.
“But neither did I see it nor anyone showed it to me,” he said. It was a “lie, drama and fraud” he added, as he went on to clarify that there was no conspiracy linked to the ouster of former prime minister Imran Khan.
He said the PTI had been alleging that they had received the cable on March 7, a day before the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan was filed. “But I have been meeting Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on this (the vote of no-confidence) since the initial days of March.”
On March 3, Shehbaz continued, Nawaz held a meeting of the PML-N’s central executive committee and PPP held a separate meeting of its own. “And we decided that we would bring a vote of no-confidence against the most corrupt, incompetent and laid back government in history”.
He said the matter was then discussed with the Pakistan Democratic Movement and the motion was eventually filed on March 8.
“They say they received the cable on March 7, but we have been holding meetings way before that,” Shehbaz said.
Stressing that the nation should be made aware of the truth, he announced that he intended to hold an in-camera briefing of the parliamentary committee on security, where the military leadership, Inter-Services Intelligence director general, foreign secretary and the ambassador who sent the letter should be present.
“The nation should know whether they have been lied to,” he said, adding that even if an iota of evidence of a foreign conspiracy was found, “I will go home”.
“This debate should be laid to rest and I will make arrangements for the in-camera session at the earliest,” Shehbaz said.
Decrying the “injustices” witnessed in “naya” Pakistan, he said: “No one is a traitor before and no one is a traitor now”.
Improving economy through unity
Turning his attention to the economy, Shehbaz remarked, “I have said it many times that a life of debt is no life.”
Highlighting the importance of hard work and financial independence, he said, “If we have to survive, we have to do it like an honourable and self-relying nation. Else, we cannot regain our lost status.”
“And if we have to take the country’s economy forward, we will have to opt for dialogue over deadlock … and rapprochement over disagreements,” he underlined.
Taking a jibe at the PTI over its slogan of “tabdeeli” (change), he said, “Change doesn’t come simply by talking.”
Over the past four years, he added, “our society was poisoned and it will take years to clean this poisoned water. And this will only be possible if we stay united.”
“Otherwise, difficulties and disappointment will be our destiny.”
Shehbaz termed the country’s economic situation “very serious” and emphasised the need for hard work to improve the economy.
Addressing the leaders of other parties, he said, “If we have to save the sinking boat, then we have to stay united and work hard.”
“The situation is very bad but, God willing, it will change if we work hard.”
He lamented that the previous government had rejected his proposal of introducing a “charter of economy” to improve the economic situation.
“Had they not rejected it in a humiliating manner, the economy would not have been in such a bad state today,” Shehbaz added.
Shehbaz went on paint a bleak picture of the country’s economy and assailed the previous government for its economic policies.
He then expressed the resolve to rebuild Pakistan, announcing that his government would increase the minimum wage to Rs25,000 from April 1. Necessary legal procedures would be undertaken regarding this with the help of the provinces, he added.
Shehbaz further committed to making Pakistan a “paradise for investments” and appealed to investors to increase the salaries of their employees who monthly income was Rs100,000 or less.
He also announced a 10 per cent increase in the pension of civil and military pensioners. This, too, would be implemented from April 1, he said.
Moreover, Shehbaz said atta (wheat flour) would be made available at cheaper rates under a Ramazan package.
Further, he said, “we will also address the high prices of electricity” and take measures for the progress of smaller provinces.
“Punjab is the elder brother but not the entire Pakistan. We will take smaller provinces along ourselves and move forward,” he commented. “We will give the youth of Balochistan, erstwhile Fata and other provinces technical education and skills instead of weapons.”
Shehbaz further announced that “Benazir card” would be reintroduced, which was renamed in the previous government’s tenure. He said the programme would be expanded to cover education.
Criticising the PTI government over its foreign policy, he lamented that Pakistan’s strategic partners and friends had left it while it remained silent on the Kashmir issue.
Underlining the importance of having good ties with China, he alleged that the previous government had attempted to weaken the friendship between Pakistan and China.
“But this friendship is for forever and … I assure that we will make progress on the CPEC,” he added, thanking Chinese President Xi Jinping.
He further underlined the significance of having good ties with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, European Union nations, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and Iran. He also said ties needed to be strengthened with US on the basis of equality and “we need to raise our voice for Afghanistan” where the situation was dire.
“We want peace in Afghanistan.”
Shehbaz also stressed the need to get the EU GSP Plus Status.
With regards to India, Shehbaz said while they wanted good relations with the neighbouring, it was conditional on the “just” resolution of Kashmir issue.
“We will raise our voice for Kashmiri brother on every forum. We will give them diplomatic and moral support,” he said, adding that his advice to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to realise that there “is poverty, unemployment and diseases on both sides of the border”.
“Why do we want our coming generations to suffer. Come, let’s resolve the Kashmir issue in line with United Nation resolutions and Kashmiris’ expectations, so that we are able to end poverty on both sides of the border.”
Shehbaz also expressed the resolve to raise voice for Palestinians.
Concluding his speech, he emphasised national unity, saying that a “nation is built through consensus”.
The session was subsequently adjourned till 4pm on April 16.
Sanjrani administers oath to Shehbaz in President Alvi’s absence
Later in the day, Shehbaz was formally sworn in as the prime minister of Pakistan at a ceremony hosted at the Aiwan-i-Sadr.
Prior to the ceremony, President Dr Arif Alvi had complained of discomfort and was advised rest for a few days, according to an update posted on his Twitter account.
In the president’s absence, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani administered oath to PM Shehbaz.
Sending ‘threat letter’ to CJP, says deputy speaker
The development comes two days after an unceremonious end to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s tenure as the country’s chief executive through a no-confidence vote.
Today’s NA session had begun with the recitation of the Holy Quran.
After the recitation, Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri explained his rationale behind his contentious ruling to dismiss the no-confidence motion against erstwhile prime minister Imran Khan on April 3.
“The ruling was declared unconstitutional by the court … and we all are obliged to respect the court. But I want to tell you the reason behind my ruling,” he said, adding that he had taken the decision “as a responsible Pakistani and deputy speaker of the NA”.
He then referred to a communique, which purportedly contained evidence of a foreign conspiracy to topple Imran Khan’s government, saying that cable was discussed in the federal cabinet, a meeting of the National Security Committee and a meeting of the parliamentary committee for security.
“And it was proven that the no-confidence motion [was linked] to a foreign conspiracy,” he said.
Suri added that on April 9, it was decided during a cabinet meeting that the cable would be declassified and sent to then-NA speaker Asad Qaiser by the government.
“Asad Qaiser read and reviewed it [the cable],” he said. He then held up a piece of paper, saying that he had the cable with him. In the letter, he continued, an “open threat” had been made to Pakistan.
He added that the communique was sent to Pakistan before the no-confidence motion was submitted on March 8.
The cable, he continued, stated that in case of the failure of the no-confidence motion, Pakistan would have to face dire consequences.
The deputy speaker went on to question, “Was talking about an independent foreign policy, independent economy … and fighting the case of Islamophobia Imran Khan’s fault?”
“Was he punished because he refused slavery?”
The deputy speaker announced that he was sealing the cable and sending it to Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial.
Before giving the floor to PTI’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi, he said his April 3 was in line with the oath he had taken as the deputy speaker and the Constitution. “I did it to stop a regime change at the will of another country,” he said.
But, he added, “I accept the Supreme Court’s decision on the matter.”
He appealed to MNAs to think about the matter and apologised for hurting anyone’s sentiments.
After Qureshi’s address, he was replaced by Sadiq as he refused to chair the session, saying his conscience did not allow him to do so.
Qureshi began his speech by noting that a constitutional process would reach its conclusion today.
“An election will be held, in which one side will be successful and another will be freed,” he said. “Today, the nation is at a crossroads. It has to choose between the path of independence and the path of slavery.”
He then thanked Imran Khan and his party for showing confidence in him and nominating as the candidate for the prime minister’s slot.
Qureshi continued that today, there was a cohort driven by a single ideology on one side and a coalition of parties, which was “unnatural” in the PTI’s view, on the other.
The premier’s election is the only item on the agenda — apart from the recitation of the Holy Quran and a Naat, which marks the commencement of every NA session — stating that the house would convene to vote for the new leader of the house “as required by Article 91 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, read with rule 32 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007”.
Former prime minister Imran Khan arrived at Parliament House ahead of the session for the election of a new premier to chair a meeting of the party’s parliamentary committee.
When asked to comment on protests held across the country by PTI supporters last night, he smiled and said: “God is the one who gives respect.”
Submission of nomination papers
Both Shehbaz and Qureshi had filed their nomination papers yesterday, hours after Imran Khan’s ouster as the prime minister.
Qureshi had submitted four forms with the NA Secretariat, while Shehbaz had filed 13 forms.
During the submission of the nomination papers, the PTI had raised objections to Shehbaz’s nomination and subsequently PTI’s Qureshi and Babar Awan had exchanged heated words with PML-N leaders Zahid Hamid and Atta Tarar.
The senior PTI leaders had submitted objections against Shehbaz, stating that the latter was contesting the election on the day of his expected indictment in a money laundering case. They were of the opinion that he did not deserve to be the new PM due to his “involvement” in corruption cases.
On Monday, the court, however, deferred the indictment.
Responding to these allegations, Tarar had said since Shehbaz had not been convicted in any case, his nomination could not be rejected merely on the basis of allegations. Hamid had reminded the PTI leaders that nomination could be rejected only on the grounds mentioned in the Constitution and Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the NA, 2007, under which the candidate for the office of PM must be a Muslim, an MNA and signature of the candidate and his proposer and seconder must be genuine.
The NA secretary had eventually accepted the nomination papers of both the candidates.
No-trust motion ousts Imran
The election for the prime minister comes two days after a premature end to the PTI tenure following weeks of political turmoil.
The saga began with the joint opposition — primarily the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and the PPP — submitting the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan with the NA Secretariat on March 8.
In the days to follow, the country’s political landscape was abuzz with activity as parties and individuals changed alliances and the PTI and opposition were seen trading barbs and allegations alongside intensifying efforts to ensure their success in the no-confidence contest.
Eventually, major allies of the ruling PTI — Balochistan Awami Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan — deserted the government and joined the opposition ranks which led to PM Imran losing his majority in the lower house of parliament.
In addition, over a dozen PTI dissident MNAs have already come into the open with their criticism on PTI policies.
For its part, the PTI had managed to secure the support of another one of its key allies, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), as Usman Buzdar stepped down as the Punjab chief minister in favour of the PML-Q’s Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who the ruling party announced as its candidate for the province’s new chief executive.
However, one of the many twists in the saga emerged when Imran Khan claimed to have evidence of a “foreign conspiracy” to oust his government. At the PTI’s rally on March 27, the premier had pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket and waved it at the crowd, claiming it was evidence of an “international conspiracy” being hatched to topple his government.
The PTI accused the opposition of being part of the foreign plot and tried to turn the tide in its favour by disclosing some of the details in the “threat letter” to journalists and lawmakers.
Separately, after a few delays, the National Assembly finally convened on April 3 to vote on the no-trust motion against the premier.
However, the PTI would prove to be five steps ahead of the opposition as the deputy speaker, who was chairing the session, dismissed the motion, saying it was part of a foreign conspiracy to oust Imran Khan, after Chaudhry spoke on a point of order, citing Article 5 of the Constitution, which mandates loyalty to the state for every citizen.
Within minutes of the pandemonium that broke out, Imran Khan appeared on television to announce that he had advised the president to dissolve the lower house of parliament and called on the people to prepare for fresh elections.
The government’s move also led to the Supreme Court taking suo motu notice of the deputy speaker’s ruling with Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial stating that all orders and actions initiated by the prime minister and president regarding the dissolution of the NA would be subject to the court’s order. Meanwhile, opposition parties also filed pleas questioning the legality of Suri’s ruling.
What followed were five days of marathon hearings where the court heard arguments from the government and the opposition. At the same time, the PTI began its preparations for the next elections, insisting on the existence of a foreign conspiracy behind the no-confidence motion.
On Thursday last week, the apex court — in a historic ruling — set aside Suri’s ruling and the subsequent dissolution of the assembly by the president on the erstwhile PM’s advice, with all five judges unanimously voting 5-0 against it.
The court’s verdict also restored the prime minister and his cabinet in their position and directed for the session of the National Assembly to reconvene on Saturday no later than 10:30am, saying that the session cannot be prorogued without the conclusion of the no-trust motion against Imran.
On Saturday, the session commenced at 10:30am but continued into the wee hours of Sunday as the opposition’s clamour for immediate voting throughout the day fell on deaf ears amid lengthy speeches delivered from treasury members on the floor of the house. The session was adjourned four times and the voting took place only after Asad Qaiser resigned at the speaker of the house almost 15 minutes before midnight, which according to legal experts, was the deadline to implement the Supreme Court’s orders to conduct voting on the no-trust motion.
PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq, who was among the panel of chairmen, had then chaired the session, with the voting on the motion finally taking place at 11:58pm.
The results were announced in the early hours of Sunday, with 174 MNAs voting in favour of the resolution, two more than the required number of 172 out of a total 342 for the resolution to pass.
History was written as Imran Khan became the first prime minister in Pakistan to have been removed from office through a no-confidence vote.