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PML-N’s Khaqan Abbasi poised to become PM today

Updated August 01, 2017

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PML-N’s Shahid Khaqan Abbasi submits his nomination papers for prime minister to National Assembly Secretary Jawad Rafique Malik at Parliament House.— Online
PML-N’s Shahid Khaqan Abbasi submits his nomination papers for prime minister to National Assembly Secretary Jawad Rafique Malik at Parliament House.— Online

ISLAMABAD: The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) nominee, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, will coast to an easy win in today’s election for the prime minister in the National Assembly — thanks to disunity among the opposition ranks.

Though the PML-N itself has more than the required number of 172 members, with the support of its allies and the failure of the opposition parties to field a joint candidate the contest has become almost a one-sided affair.

Five candidates belonging to four opposition parties have submitted their nomination papers after their failure to choose a consensus candidate during a joint meeting presided over by Opposition Leader Syed Khursheed Shah.

Also read: Khaqan Abbasi faces NAB inquiry over LNG contract

Those who filed the nomination papers against Mr Abbasi are Syed Khursheed Shah and Syed Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Sheikh Rashid Ahmed of the Awami Muslim League (AML) as a nominee of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Sahibzada Tariqullah of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Kishwar Zehra of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

Opposition fails to field joint candidate

Speaker Ayaz Sadiq declared all the papers in order after scrutiny in front of the candidates.

National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq scrutinises the nomination papers in his chamber at Parliament House on Monday of PML-N MNA Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for election of the prime minister.—Online
National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq scrutinises the nomination papers in his chamber at Parliament House on Monday of PML-N MNA Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for election of the prime minister.—Online

Sheikh Rashid objected to Mr Abbasi’s papers, saying he was facing a corruption reference in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), but the speaker rejected the objection. He asked the complainant to raise the matter at the appropriate forum.

In the wake of Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification by the Supreme Court, President Mamnoon Hussain has convened the NA session to elect a new leader of the house.

On Saturday, Nawaz Sharif nominated Mr Abbasi as his successor for an interim period till the time Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif got himself elected to the NA to assume the office for the remaining term of the PML-N in the government which would end in May next year.

Speaking to the media, Mr Abbasi said he would continue with the policies of Nawaz Sharif. He said his party leadership would nominate the members of his cabinet after consultations.

Meanwhile, during a meeting of the opposition parties, the PTI failed to gain support of any other party apart from the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) for Sheikh Rashid.

Sources said the PPP leaders not only objected to Sheikh Rashid’s nomination, they also complained that PTI chairman Imran Khan had announced his nominee even before the opposition parties’ meeting that had already been convened by Khursheed Shah.

Moreover, the PPP refused to extend the support to the PTI’s nominee due to the criticism against former president Asif Ali Zardari by Imran Khan during Sunday’s public meeting.

Talking to reporters at the Parliament House, Khursheed Shah also criticised Imran Khan’s remarks about Mr Zardari and asked the “saner elements” in the PTI to ‘teach’ politics to the cricketer-turned politician.

Later, PPP leader Saeed Ghani in a statement said that an appeal was being heard in the Supreme Court against Imran Khan in which he had failed to produce a money trail and soon he would also be declared disqualified.

When contacted, PTI’s vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi regretted the failure of the opposition parties to field a joint candidate. He said the PTI had nominated Sheikh Rashid because he “deserved the honour” for his remarkable contribution in the ouster of Nawaz Sharif. Despite being a lone member of his own party in parliament, he said, Sheikh Rashid filed a petition against the PML-N leadership in the apex court and thus showed a great courage in putting political and legal challenges to the all-powerful Sharif family.

Mr Qureshi said the opposition knew it did not have the numbers in the assembly to defeat the government’s nominee, therefore, it would have been a better opportunity to support Sheikh Rashid in recognition of his role in the struggle against corruption.

Interestingly, the JI which is an ally of the PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa did not accept the logic presented by the PTI leadership for nominating Sheikh Rashid, saying it was JI chief Sirajul Haq who had first filed the petition before the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case.

Possible scenarios

Being the single largest party, the PML-N has 188 legislators in the 342-member National Assembly. With two seats lying vacant (NA-18 Fata and NA-120 Lahore), a total of 340 members will exercise their right of vote in today’s election.

In case of 100 per cent attendance of the members and if all the members vote strictly in line with the party’s policy — a situation highly unlikely — then the PML-N’s nominee should secure at least 213 votes whereas 126 votes would be distributed among the opposition candidates.

In the previous election, Nawaz Sharif had secured 244 votes against 42 votes of PPP’s Amin Fahim and 31 votes of PTI’s Javed Hashmi. However, at that time, the 24-member MQM and eight independents had supported Mr Sharif. If the MQM again decides to support the PML-N, Mr Abbasi’s vote tally can cross the 230 mark.

There is an interesting situation in the opposition’s camp as well. Among 33 PTI members, there are three MNAs who were expelled by the party in 2014 for not supporting the party in the sit-in.

However, these MNAs are still members of the assembly. Now these members have only two choices — either support the PTI candidate or remain absent. If they come to the house, then they will have no choice but to vote for the PTI candidate, otherwise they can face disqualification as per the constitutional clause under which a party member could not vote in the PM’s elections to any outside candidate.

Similarly, MQM’s Asif Hasnain’s name is also included in the 24 party MNAs despite the fact that he already quit the party, and joined the Pak Sarzameen Party.

The JUI-F presently has 13 MNAs, but one of its members has recently won a seat from Balochistan in a by-poll. The newly-elected MNA is expected to take the oath as MNA before the start of the election process on Monday.

Following is the party position in the NA having nine independent members:

Treasury

PML-N 188; JUI-F 14; PML-F 5; PkMAP 3; NPP 2; PML-Z and NP one each. Total 214

Opposition

PPP 47; PTI 33; MQM 24; JI 4; PML-Q and ANP 2 each; and APML, AJIP, QWP, AML and BNP-M one each. Total 117.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2017