Shahid Khaqan Abbasi sworn in as prime minister of Pakistan

Published August 1, 2017
President Mamnoon Hussain administers oath to Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who was elected as the successor to ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif Tuesday.─ PID/AP
President Mamnoon Hussain administers oath to Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who was elected as the successor to ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif Tuesday.─ PID/AP

PML-N's Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was sworn in as prime minister of Pakistan in an oath-taking ceremony held at President House on Tuesday.

President Mamnoon Hussain administered the oath to Abbasi.

Abbasi was elected prime minister by lawmakers in the National Assembly earlier today, bagging 221 votes to become the successor to ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

PPP's Syed Naveed Qamar secured 47 votes, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid received 33 votes, and four MNAs voted for Jamaat-i-Islami's Sahibzada Tariqullah during the ballot.

An NA session to elect a new prime minister had been called by President Mamnoon Hussain following a landmark Supreme Court ruling on the Panama Papers case on Friday, in which Nawaz Sharif was disqualified as PM after being deemed unfit to hold office.

Following the SC verdict, the PML-N had agreed upon Abbasi, the former petroleum minister, as its candidate for prime minister for the interim period till the 'permanent' replacement could be elected. Abbasi has to eventually give way to Shahbaz Sharif, who is likely to compete for the National Assembly seat lying vacant following the ouster of his elder brother and then stand for the chief executive's office.

Following the announcement of Abbasi's victory by NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, the PML-N benches in the Lower House had erupted with loud sloganeering in favour of Nawaz Sharif.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's acceptance speech

Addressing the lower house soon after his victory was announced, Prime Minister-elect Abbasi said: "I am grateful to you all, for following the democratic process — whether you voted for or against me."

"I am grateful to the people of Pakistan, and I am grateful to the 'people's prime minister', Nawaz Sharif," he continued.

"I am also grateful to the opposition and Imran Khan for remembering us in their daily slandering," he jibed.

Moving on, Abbasi termed the Supreme Court's verdict on the Panamagate case "unprecedented", saying that although the party was blind-sided by the judgement, "we accepted it as it was".

"We did not challenge the courts, there was no division in our ranks. The party stands as it was. No one wanted to joust for power — whoever the prime minister [Nawaz Sharif] named was supported unanimously," he said, rebuffing rumours of cracks in the party's ranks following the verdict.

"Everybody wants the [prime minister's] chair. Tell me, who in this house doesn't? It is to the PML-N's credit that all party members rallied unanimously behind whoever was nominated by our leader.

"Within four days, the democratic process is back on track. There were no defections. There was no dissension in our ranks.

"Justice mandates that though a 1,000 guilty people may go free, not even one innocent person should be wrongfully convicted. I will not go into details of Friday's decision — I only want to say that there will soon be another court — one held by the people. There will be no JIT there," he said, referring to the upcoming general elections in 2018.

"I am sure that the real prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, will return to this seat."

However, he said that, "I am the country's prime minister — bet it for 45 days or 45 hours — and am not here just to keep the seat warm."

"If I am here for 45 days, I will try to complete the amount of the work that requires 45 months," he vowed.

Continuing, the prime minister-elect urged that the Constitution be respected. "Politics, which has come to be seen as a disreputable profession, will be made respectable again."

"Be it the government, bureaucracy, opposition or the army — we are in the same boat, and a hole in this boat will sink everyone," he cautioned.

Abbasi's promises

"We will continue taking difficult decisions," Abbasi said as he promised to take action against "private militias" providing security to citizens.

"There is not a single country in the world which allows the licencing of automatic rifles for citizens. If you go outside parliament right now, you will see a private militia," Abbasi remarked.

"Action will be taken against them if my cabinet allows for it. The federal government will seize all automatic weapons, compensating people in return," he promised.

The premier, carrying forward Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N's promises, vowed to eliminate loadshedding by November this year as he highlighted various infrastructure and development projects initiated by his party's government as examples of its commitment to the country's growth.

"In Pakistan's history, power projects with the capacity to generate 17,000 mega watts were set up before our government. We have added 10,000MW," he said.

"Pervez Musharraf may have ruled the country for eight years, but show me just one major development project from that era," he said.

"One thing that is very close to my heart is [the collection of] taxes," Abbasi continued.

"The perception here is that paying taxes is optional [...] if my cabinet approves, I will set my sights on non-taxpayers," he promised.

Abbasi also briefly mentioned a focus on agriculture, education and health services.

"Agriculture is the backbone of the country," Abbasi said. "Although I am not an agriculturalist, I feel their pain," he said.

Speaking about the state of education, the premier called for improvements in higher education and the need for a national testing mechanism.

Abbasi also touched upon the PM's Health Card scheme introduced by Nawaz Sharif ─ "the largest system in South Asia".

Opposition remarks

PPP's Naveed Qamar was given the floor next by the NA Speaker to share his remarks. He thanked his party leadership for allowing him to be nominated for the post of PM.

"My advice to the prime minister elect would be that the onus is on you. This seat has not been occupied very frequently in recent years and you will make it stronger if you continue to sit on it. Your power flows from this house, and if this house is strong, you will be strong," he said, cautioning Abbasi that this would only be the case "if you pay attention to the members".

"The advice you get from technocrats and others will sound very logical, but the advice you get from this house will be that which matters to the people."

"You said you have 45 days, but I will nonetheless insist that you have 10 months. How much change can you bring about in this time? You will only progress if you focus on two or three areas and take them forward," he advised.

"Prioritising agriculture will make the country stronger," he said.

"The country and the country's politics have reached a point where smooth transitions are not visible," he lamented."

"We are here to give you all the support you require, as long as you are working in the larger national interest."

The AML's Sheikh Rashid, the second runner-up, also congratulated Abbasi on becoming the prime minister-elect "through a democratic process".

"However, it would have been great if you had talked about foreign policy in your speech," Rashid remarked.

Rashid also expounded on shortcomings in the PML-N's economic policy, including a $5 billion decrease in exports, an "unbelievable" $35bn loan, and unemployment of about 1 million people.

NA session proceedings

As the session started, NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq had taken an oath from JUI-F lawmaker Usman Badini, who was recently elected from the NA 260 constituency.

Ayaz Sadiq supervises NA session.
Ayaz Sadiq supervises NA session.

The members then prayed for MNA Ejaz Jakhrani's deceased brother, MNA Ghulam Mustufa Shah's deceased mother and those who passed away during recent incidents in Quetta, Parachinar, Ahmedpur East and Lahore.

The speaker then read out the house rules, briefing the lawmakers about the process through which the National Assembly will be voting for a new head of government.

Sadiq announced that Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Naveed Qamar, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Sahibzada Tariqullah are the four valid candidates competing for the office of the prime minister.

PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was also in attendance. He briefly became the centre of attention during the voting process as the treasury members were seen conversing with him.

Abbasi also met Chaudhry Nisar and both were seen laughing.

Meanwhile, the lawmakers were also seen taking pictures with PML-N nominee Khaqan Abbasi.

The PTI and PML-Q lawmakers voted for Sheikh Rashid, while MQM, PML-N and allies voted for Abbasi.

PTI leaders had earlier said that party chief Imran Khan will also attend the NA session, but he failed to show up.

The members who wished to vote for Shahid were asked to go to lobby A, while those wanting to vote for Naveed Qamar approached to lobby B. Meanwhile, lawmakers wanting to vote for Sheikh Rashid and Sahibzada Tariq were asked to approach lobbies C and D, respectively.

At the end of the polling process, after casting their vote, the PML-N members had returned to the house carrying porters of their ousted leader Nawaz Sharif, prompting repeated warnings from Speaker Ayaz Sadiq and protests from the opposition.

MQM backs PML-N

Hours before the NA session, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) had announced it was withdrawing its candidate Kishwar Zehra in favour of Abbasi, DawnNews reported.

MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar announced the party's decision in a joint press conference following a meeting with PML-N leaders in the federal capital on Tuesday.

MQM's Sattar and Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar had met with Abbasi, Saad Rafique and Abdul Qadir Baloch.

Farooq Sattar talks to media.
Farooq Sattar talks to media.

Talking to the media, Sattar said that despite their differences with the political parties, MQM is trying to maintain a working relationship with them.

"We have welcomed the delegation from PML-N and expect them to resolve our grievances," added Sattar.

Following a PPP parliamentary meeting, Syed Khursheed Shah had also withdrawn his name in favour of the party's other nominee, Naveed Qamar.


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