Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's (PTI) Asad Qaiser and Qasim Suri were sworn in as National Assembly (NA) speaker and deputy speaker respectively on Wednesday, beating out the joint candidates fielded by a fragile opposition alliance in a secret ballot.
Qaiser, a former speaker of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, received 176 votes to PPP stalwart and joint opposition's candidate Khursheed Shah's 146. Eight votes were rejected in the tally.
The election for the post of deputy speaker was also won by a PTI candidate: Suri. He garnered 183 votes and edged out Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal's (MMA) Maulana Asad Mehmood, who received 144 votes.
After the announcement of Qaiser's victory, the new NA speaker made a round of the opposition benches and shook hands with PPP, PML-N and MMA leaders seated in the front rows of the assembly.
Outgoing speaker Ayaz Sadiq subsequently administered the speaker's oath to Qaiser amidst loud chants of vote ko izzat do by PML-N lawmakers.
Meanwhile, the oath to the new deputy speaker was administered by the new speaker and his fellow PTI leader, Qaiser.
After taking oath, Suri thanked his voters and vowed to work for the betterment of Balochistan, from where he hails. "I thank every member of the parliament who voted for me," he said. "I also thank Asad Mehmood.
"The PTI will pay special care to Balochistan. I have entered the parliament with this hope. Under Imran Khan's leadership we will turn Quetta into little Paris."
'Would like us to work for Pakistan's betterment'
Sadiq had earlier delivered a speech thanking his party (PML-N) and the former opposition for their support throughout his tenure, particularly during the 2014 protests and the circumstances that culminated in the resignation of PTI lawmakers.
He congratulated Qaiser on winning the contest for the speaker's seat, and Shah for putting up a decent fight.
"Many times I heard people call me a 'fake speaker' and tell me that 'we won't agree', but I didn't frown once," he said by way of advice to the incumbent.
"Each second of each minute that I gave to the opposition (as speaker) is recorded. My government complained that I lean too much towards the opposition," he said.
He also asked for all lawmakers to respect each other despite their differences.
"I would like all of us to work for Pakistan's betterment," he added.
He also lauded the passage of the Elections Act 2017, which was worked on by all political parties, but also mentioned shortcomings in Section 95(v) pertaining to the recounting of results at the time of consolidation of votes.
He also regretted that the Election Commission of Pakistan did not execute its responsibilities as required, despite being given greater powers than before.
"The house will decide whether we need to hold it [the ECP] accountable or not."
"Everyone should be held accountable," he added. "Let us work for the betterment of Pakistan and the Parliament. We receive a lot of insults, no on appreciates our work. We have to make sure our work is appreciated," he said.
"All of us wish to work for Pakistan, but it is also our right to play a role as the opposition," he later stated.
'Will play role of opposition'
PPP's Khursheed Shah struck a conciliatory tone, making a speech that focused on the promise that his party would never become a hurdle to the passage of legislation meant for the country's progress.
"Under Bilawal's leadership, we will fully play the role of a good opposition. It is our constitutional and legal right," he added.
"Once more, we pray that this Assembly completes its five-year term in a democratic manner."
'Opposition's democratic rights will be protected'
PTI's Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a similarly diplomatic speech praised PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari for his "positive role" and "democratic behaviour".
He also thanked Khursheed Shah for his "democratic views" and appreciated Shah's "political maturity".
Qureshi observed that the lawmakers would have to exhibit such democratic behaviour to maintain the sanctity of the house in the years ahead.
He also thanked the leadership of PTI's allied parties — the Balochistan National Party (BNP), the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), PML-Q, Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), and the independents who supported it in the speaker's election.
He assured the opposition that the government would safeguard their democratic rights, and assured them that their criticism would be taken positively.
The PTI leader noted that the country has been facing enormous challenges and that the government would need guidance from opposition lawmakers to cope with them.
"All your positive points will be paid heed to; we have the courage to listen and we will try to act accordingly," he concluded.
Khalid Maqbool lauds democratic transition
MQM-P leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui lauded the democratic transition of government and said it should be the first step towards change for a better democratic process in the future.
"The people of Pakistan have entrusted their dreams to us; it is our responsibility to ensure they become a reality," he said.
He also hoped that one day the common man would sit in Parliament: with farmers represented by farmers, and labourers represented by labourers.
Overview of new National Assembly
The NA has a total of 342 seats, including 272 general seats, 60 reserved for women and 10 for minorities.
As polls in Rawalpindi (NA-60) had been postponed following the disqualification of PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi and elections in Faisalabad (NA-103) had been put off after the death of a candidate, the elections were held in 270 NA constituencies on July 25.
The results of only 339 NA constituencies, including the reserved seats, have so far been announced while the notification of PPP candidate Fida Dero’s victory from NA-215 (Sanghar), which had been withheld by the Election Commission of Pakistan, had not been issued till Monday evening despite the apex court order.
As many as 326 members had taken oath on Monday as Mehboob Sultan and Amir Sultan, the two brothers and PTI MNAs from Jhang, had not turned up at the inaugural session due to the demise of their mother.
The PTI now has 152 members in the NA after Imran Khan, Ghulam Sarwar Khan and Tahir Sadiq vacated the additional seats.
PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who had won two NA seats, has also opted for the Punjab Assembly seat.
PML-N’s Hamza Shahbaz has also retained his Punjab Assembly seat and did not take the oath as MNA on Monday.
The parties that had already announced their support to the PTI or were expected to vote for its nominees were the MQM with seven seats; PML-Q and BAP with three seats each; BNP (four seats); GDA (three); and Awami Muslim League and Jamhoori Watan Party (with one seat each). Besides them, nine independents had joined the PTI.
Four independents, who had decided to maintain their independent status, were also expected to vote for the PTI.
The PML-N with 82 seats is the largest party in the opposition group, followed by PPP (53 seats); MMA (15 seats) and ANP (one seat).
Given the numbers, Qaiser was expected to receive around 180 votes in the election, against the estimated 150 votes for opposition candidate Khursheed Shah.
In the first round, the speaker will be chosen in an NA session chaired by the outgoing speaker.
The polling will begin once the NA is in session and all votes will be handed out by the NA secretary.
No one will be allowed to take a photograph of their vote.
Each nominee will choose two polling agents for themselves.
Once all the votes have been cast, the speaker will announce that the polling process has concluded.
Votes will then be counted in the presence of both candidates and their polling agents.
Once the results are compiled, the speaker will proceed to announce the results.
The outgoing speaker will then administer oath to the newly elected speaker.
The same process will be repeated to bring in the new deputy speaker.
The new speaker will supervise the election of the deputy speaker.