ISLAMABAD: In his address to the National Assembly today, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif indicated in no uncertain terms that his government and the present parliament are here to stay. Today was the first time Nawaz addressed Parliament on the ongoing political crisis, after which his party said no force would be used against protesters encamped outside the building.
Nawaz said today would be remembered in the nation's history as a great day for democracy, adding that the assembly represented the people of Pakistan. "This great display of strength will always be remembered. It makes me happy to think that this is the voice of the 200 million people of the country," the premier said.
Although in the last couple of weeks, Nawaz had been coming to Parliament more regularly than before, this was the first time he had addressed house members about the current crisis, indirectly rejecting demands for his resignation and dissolution of the parliament, but offering to discuss all other issues.
"I find it heartening when politicians say that they are fighting for democracy and not for a prime minister," he said...MNAs voted on the resolution calling for their confidence in the assembly and the elected representatives of the people."
"This is the triumph of a vision…which is not about individuals…governments come and go, prime ministers come and go but focusing on the principle of democracy and Constitution is a victory of the system, of democracy," the prime minister said.
"I haven't seen a similar example in the country's history," Nawaz told the House, adding that the fact that nine of out ten parties voted for the resolution supporting democracy was a historic moment for Pakistan.
“I am grateful that you have chosen me as the leader of the House…I vow never to hurt your sentiments,” he said.
“We have survived difficult times. In the 2008 elections, our hands were tied. But we campaigned and participated, we did not cry about rigging – and it would have been a legitimate cry. Because at that time there was a dictator that controlled the government. He held those elections…. But we said if PPP has got more seats than us then we will accept that right of the PPP.”
“After that, for five years we worked with the government and supported it to complete its term. Mr Imran Khan, I visited him in the hospital when he was injured and he congratulated me on winning the polls and said he will play the role of a constructive opposition,” he told the House.
"Imran’s claims were published in the papers as well, he said, adding that PTI said it had reservations but accepted the results of the elections. Later, when Imran invited me to Bani Gala, I went and we had a pleasant discussion. He assured me he is with the government in all steps taken in good faith."
The prime minister added that “if today, we correct ourselves for the way forward, that will be positive for Pakistan", and added that a committee had been constituted for electoral reforms and all political forces should sit together and give their opinions.
It also appeared that the prime minister consciously avoided going into details of the current crisis, but towards the end of his speech indicated that he would like to address the house again on what he called the real factors that led to the ongoing campaign against him and the current crisis.
“I had been sitting in the Assembly and listening to the discussions of the other ladies and gentlemen [in NA]. Why did this crisis begin and how, that is also a discussion that needs to take place.”
Nawaz expressed hope that this phase will pass and Pakistan will be steered towards prosperity.
He also referred to the government’s developmental ventures in his address.
“The Karachi-Lahore motorway will be constructed with assistance from China…a revolutionary program of development in Balochistan is also on the cards,” he said.
He added: “Our energies should be directed towards Pakistan’s development instead of what we have witnessed in the recent days.”
Saad Rafique urges Qadri to withdraw deadline
Speaking in the NA, Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique said Dr Tahirul Qadri should withdraw his deadline.
The railways minister said the government would not launch a crackdown on protesters, adding that it had shown tremendous wisdom.
Rafique said the government did not harbour any obstinacy or ego. He said the Constitution Avenue in the federal capital had not been cleared despite orders from the Supreme Court.
The railways minister said four phases of talks with the PTI had already concluded, adding that some of the party’s demands had been accepted.
Rafique, who is also a senior government negotiator, requested both PAT and PTI not to suspend the dialogue process.
He said PML-N had also decided to stop its rallies to avoid any type of confrontation.
Today’s session of the House comes as the army warned against the prolonging of protests by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), calling upon the government to urgently reach a political settlement.
PTI leadership also handed in the resignations of its MNAs last week but Imran Khan's party is engaged in talks with the government on how to resolve the crisis that has now taken critical proportions.
Meanwhile, PAT chief Tahirul Qadri's deadline to the government is expiring this evening and the cleric recently went as far as calling for the hanging of the Sharif brothers.
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