Shehbaz Sharif elected as Pakistan's 23rd prime minister following Imran Khan's ouster

Muhammad Anis
Web Desk

Newly-elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif delivers his first speech at the National Assembly in Islamabad, on April 11, 2022. — PID
Newly-elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif delivers his first speech at the National Assembly in Islamabad, on April 11, 2022. — PID

ISLAMABAD: Following the ouster of PTI chairman Imran Khan from the office of the prime minister, the Opposition's joint candidate Shehbaz Sharif was elected as the 23rd premier of Pakistan Monday.

Shehbaz secured 174 votes as opposed to PTI's candidate Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who received no votes after his party decided to boycott the polling process.

The poll took place under the chairmanship of MNA Ayaz Sadiq,  two days after the lower house of Parliament voted in favour of removing Imran Khan from office, following a nearly 14-hour standoff between the Opposition and Khan's ruling party that started on Saturday morning.

The Monday session formally started after a brief delay with a recitation of the Holy Quran and naat, with NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri in the chair. 

The session, however, has been adjourned till 4pm on Wednesday, April 16.

'Historic day'

Taking the floor, the newly elected prime minister Shehbaz thanked the Almighty Allah for his uncountable blessings.

He mentioned that Almighty Allah has protected the country which was also because of the hectic efforts of the leaders of the joint Opposition members.

The premier mentioned that it was for the first time in the history of Pakistan that a prime minister was ousted through the no-confidence motion.

Terming today a “historic day”, he mentioned that the happiness of the people can be seen through the economic indicators. Shehbaz mentioned that the rupee regained its value — which was trading at Rs190 per dollar and closed at Rs182 per dollar today.

“Imran Khan was the person who said that when rupee gains Re1 against the US dollar then the prime minister of the country is a corrupt person now he should see that the rupee has recovered around Rs8,” he said.

He acknowledged the Supreme Court’s “unanimous” verdict saying that the day when the apex court gave its judgment should be marked as a “historic day” in the history of Pakistan. 

'Will probe threat letter'

The newly-elected prime minister said the Opposition was discussing the no-confidence motion days before Imran Khan's "concocted threat letter controversy".

"They say that this letter came to them on March 7, but our decisions were made way before that, so, if [what the previous government claimed] is a lie, then the matter should be disclosed transparently before the public," he said.

Therefore, PM Shehbaz Sharif announced that the parliament's security committee would be given a briefing on the "threat letter" to the members of the committee in presence of the armed forces personnel and bureaucrats — the director-general Inter-Services Intelligence, foreign secretary, and the ambassador who wrote it, who has now been transferred to Brussels.

"If there's an iota of evidence that we were backed by foreign conspirators [...] then with you Mr speaker and God as my witness, I will not think for another second and resign from the office of the prime minister," PM Shehbaz Sharif said, vowing to hold an in-camera session of the security committee at the earliest.

The prime minister thanked his brother and ex-premier Nawaz Sharif for his support, while also lauding social media activists, press clubs, media houses, and lawyers for backing the Opposition's struggle for democracy.

On economy

Moving towards the topic of economy, the newly-elected prime minister said if Pakistan were to progress, then it needs to be self-sufficient on the financial front.

"...we will need to protect and respect the nation as neither was anyone a traitor nor are they traitors now," the prime minister said, noting if Pakistan's economy were to move forward, then, the government will have to use "dialogue" and not move towards a deadlock.

PM Shehbaz Sharif said hard work was required for Pakistan's progress as if only statements could move the country forward, then during PTI's tenure, we would have been among the leading nations.

  • The minimum wage will be jacked up to Rs25,000 (from April 1).
  • 10% increase in pensions of retired civil, and military officials (from April 1).
  • Cheap wheat to be introduced at utility stores.
  • Laptop and technical education for youth.
  • Reintroduction of Benazir Card.
  • Appeal to industrialists to increase salaries of employees who earn up to Rs100,000 by 10%.

"We will need to wash out the effects of the previous government by working together, otherwise, we will fail [...] our economy is in a bad situation right now," the prime minister said.

PM Shehbaz Sharif said the new government would take steps to make Pakistan an "investment heaven" for investors as he noted their capital would help the country move forward.

He announced that despite Punjab "being the elder brother" if all the other provinces remain behind in terms of development, then it is not Pakistan's development, it was just a single province's development.

"...this servant of Pakistan vows to make sure that Pakistan will develop and not just Punjab," Shehbaz said.

He said the government would reintroduce the Benazir Card and interlink it with the education sector in a bid to facilitate people whose children go to school.

"Our children should be equipped with great knowledge [...] we will reintroduce this programme with consultation," he said and lashed out at the PTI government for discontinuing it.

Alvi in discomfort

Meanwhile, President Dr Arif Alvi, according to the president's Twitter account, complained of discomfort. Following this, "the physician has examined him thoroughly and has advised him to rest for a few days."

In absence of the president — a PTI and Imran Khan loyalist — Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani will administer the oath to the newly-elected prime minister.

Take on foreign policy

Speaking about foreign policy, Shehbaz said China has been Pakistan’s partner through thick and thin. “No one can snatch Pakistan and China's friendship from us,” he said, calling it a “long-lasting relation.”

He also reiterated that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will be carried forward and the projects will move forward at a faster pace.

On relations with the United Kingdom, Shehbaz said that bilateral relations need to move forward as millions of Pakistanis live there, adding that the UK provided funding for education in all four provinces. Meanwhile, Shehbaz also maintained that relations with the US must also be established on equal grounds.

Speaking about India, the newly-elected prime minister lamented that despite them wanting peaceful ties with India, they know that until the Kashmir issue is resolved, relations between the two cannot be strengthened.

Urging Indian premier Narendra Modi to understand the issues of the people living on both sides, he questioned there is poverty, unemployment, medical issues, etc. then "why are we harming ourselves and the generations to come?"

He said Modi should come forward and resolve the Kashmir issue according to the will of the Kashmiris and reiterated that his government will continue to raise its voice for the people of Kashmir.

Qasim Suri defends himself

At the outset of the session, Suri said that voting has already been done on the no-trust motion [against Imran Khan] and there has been enough debate over the ruling he gave on April 3, which blocked the no-trust vote against Khan.

"Complying with the court's orders is mandatory for everyone, but I want to put the reasons and basis of my ruling before you.

"I made the decision as a patriotic Pakistani, as a guardian and speaker of the NA," he said.

"I want to tell you that the foreign cable was deliberated over during the meetings of the federal cabinet, the PCNS, NSC and it was agreed that the no-confidence motion against Khan is a foreign plot," he said.

Suri went on to say that the last cabinet meeting that was held on April 9, 2022, decided to declassify the foreign cable. He said that the cable was then received by former NA speaker Asad Qaiser, who closely read it.

Suri then flashed the "cable", saying that he also received it as the deputy speaker.

"In this cable, Pakistan has been openly threatened."

Suri reiterated that the cable was received before the motion of no-confidence was submitted against Khan.

He asked if it was Khan's fault that he talked about an independent foreign policy or spoke for the honour of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), or fought the case against Islamophobia.

The deputy speaker asked if Pakistan is not a free country.

"Was Khan punished for not accepting slavery?"

Suri then announced that he will send the declassified cable in a "sealed" envelope to the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

Suri concluded by saying that he has accepted the apex court's decision to reverse his ruling and the restoration of the Assembly as it was, and has tried to run parliamentary affairs as per NA rules and the Constitution. He then allowed former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to speak.

'Some will win, some will get free': Qureshi

Taking the floor, former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that today's constitutional process has to end today as some will be declared a winner today, while the other one will be declared “free”.

“The nation has two paths; one path is of self-respect while the other one is of slavery,” he said, appreciating Imran Khan for trusting him [Qureshi] by nominating him.

Calling the PTI a “relatively” new party compared to other parties, he said it has managed to leave a strong impression on the minds of the public.

Qureshi pointed towards the treasury benches, saying that today, the nation can see that on one side are people who share the same pro-country ideology and on the other side, people are only united and are sitting with several ideologies.

The PTI vice-chairman said: “In view of PTI members, the unity among the Opposition benches is unnatural because history knows that there is no ideological unity. among them”.

Recalling several incidents, he said: “History bears witness that they have always tried to bring each other down.”

Qureshi said that they may think that some of them [Opposition members] have won while the people on the treasury benches have lost; however, the nation showed them yesterday who are they standing with.

Referring to last night’s protests staged by PTI supporters in various cities — both in Pakistan and abroad — he said that people came out on the streets on Imran Khan’s call which shows that today “some people will lose despite winning in the assembly while others will win even if they lose the race of prime ministership.”

'Imran Khan taught nation to live an independent life'

“Imran Khan has taught the nation how to live an independent life,” he said, adding that despite being a graduate of Oxford University, he promoted the national language and national dress of Pakistan on all occasions.

Qureshi went on to say that when Imran Khan met Donald Trump in the White House, he was wearing a Peshwari chappal, while during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, he was wearing Shalwar Kameez.

Amid constant calls from the deputy speaker urging members sitting on the Opposition benches to maintain the order of the House, Qureshi continued saying that the Opposition members have formed a temporary collision that would not last long, adding that Shahbaz Sharif knows he does not have the “support of the people.”

Lashing out at the Opposition parties, the ex-foreign minister said PPP and PML-N could not think of appointing someone outside their families for the top office of the prime minister and chief minister.

Qureshi said the PML-N and PPP were part of governments for 40 years but did not allow Imran Khan to even stay in power for even four years. "Were they not enough for you to introduce electoral reforms?"

The PTI leader said the people have rejected the coalition's "imported government" — and it was not only witnessed in Pakistan but abroad as well.

"Let the people of Pakistan choose between an independent or an enslaved Pakistan [...] do you want the Pakistan in which there are several diseases, or do you want a Pakistan which we envision," the ex-foreign minister said.

Qureshi said in the "old Pakistan", every child is in debt, a majority portion of the revenue goes into debt servicing, a "historic trade deficit", International Monetary Fund's (IMF) doors were knocked on, the GDP's growth was stagnant, and unemployment was rising.

"In line with the party's unanimous decision, we have decided not to partake in their (Opposition) illegal actions; we aspire for an independent Pakistan, and we announce to resign [from assemblies] today," the PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced, followed by loud chants of "hum kya chahte hain? azadi."

As the ex-foreign minister announced PTI's decision, NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri also said his "conscience" does not allow him to hold the election for the new prime minister, therefore, he handed over the chair of the session to MNA Ayaz Sadiq — the senior-most member of the panel of chair.

Khan arrives at Parliament House first time after ouster as PM

Meanwhile, Khan arrived at the Parliament House ahead of the election for the new prime minister for the first time since his ouster as the premier.

Upon the arrival of their leader, PTI members chanted slogans in his favour. When asked to comment on PTI's massive power show on Sunday night, Khan said:

"Izzat dene wala Allah hai (it is God who gives us respect)."

Tens of hundreds of PTI supporters took to the streets across Pakistan to protest Khan's removal from office, on his call.

Khan will chair a meeting of the parliamentary party to finalise the strategy for the PM's election and decide about en masse resignations from the National Assembly, which has created division within the party.

Today's meeting is the first meeting of the parliamentary party after his removal from the office and the former PM, to the surprise of many, arrived early while the lawmakers came afterwards.

NA accepts Shehbaz, Qureshi's nomination papers

The NA Secretariat accepted the nomination papers of joint Opposition’s nominee Sharif and his opponent Qureshi's nomination papers to contest the re-election for the slot of the prime minister Sunday night.

Taking to Twitter, the NA announced that the nomination papers of both candidates were scrutinised, after which they were accepted.

The Opposition parties submitted eleven nomination papers to the NA Secretariat for Shehbaz Sharif with no covering candidates. Meanwhile, top PPP leaders Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari signed a nomination paper as the proposer and seconder, while Khursheed Shah and Naveed Qamar also signed the other nomination paper as the proposer and seconder.

MQM-P parliamentarians Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and Syed Aminul Haq were the proposer and seconder for Shehbaz Sharif in the third nomination paper, respectively. Similarly, Mohsin Dawar, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Azam Khan Hoti, Khawaja Asif, Maulana Asad Mahmood, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Khalid Magsi were proposers, while Ali Wazir, Khwaja Saad Rafique, Nawab Shahzain Bugti, Rana Tanveer Hussain, Shahida Akhtar Ali, Agha Hasan Baloch, Maryam Aurangzeb and Muhammad Israr Tarin were seconders in eight other Shehbaz Sharif’s nomination papers.

PTI parliamentarians Zain Qureshi, Ms Malaika Bokhari and Aamir Dogar submitted the nomination papers of Shah Mehmood Qureshi to the NA secretary. Aamir Dogar and Ali Muhammad Khan signed the nomination papers as the seconder and the proposer for the PTI candidate, respectively.

Two sides engage in heated argument

PTI leader Dr Babar Awan raised an objection to the nomination papers of the combined Opposition’s candidate saying that Shehbaz Sharif would be the first prime minister in the world who is on bail for 10 months in corruption cases.

At this, the NA secretary asked Babar Awan not to deliver political speeches and only hand over the charges in writing to him.

Qureshi told the official not to interrupt the arguments of his lawyers.

“The government has started rigging before the commencement of the voting process,” he said.

The NA secretary, however, rejected all objections to Shehbaz Sharif’s nomination papers. The raising of objections led to a heated argument between the two sides.

Meanwhile, Qureshi and PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal exchanged harsh words during the filing of papers.

“You are no longer a foreign minister,” Ahsan was heard telling Qureshi, who responded aggressively saying, “you are not a candidate, please get out of the room”.

A delegation of the united Opposition also reached the office of the acting National Assembly speaker where the nomination papers were being scrutinised.

The election of the prime minister will take place through a division of vote in the House.

Sharif is expected to secure 176 votes of the combined opposition. His votes would touch the figure of 200 if dissident members of PTI decide to participate and vote in his favour.