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The past week has been one of the most dramatic in Pakistan’s history. But even more remarkable is the fact that a sitting Prime Minister (PM) has been removed through a vote of no-confidence for the first time in our turbulent history and replaced by a democratic vote for an incoming PM.

Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) government lost the no-confidence vote by 174 to none, without even the PTI dissident MNAs having to cast their vote on April 10, 2022. On the following day, April 11, 2022, Shehbaz Sharif, the Leader of the Opposition and head of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N), was elected the PM with exactly the same number of votes, 174 to none.

On both occasions, the former ruling PTI absented itself from the National Assembly (NA). On April 11, 2022, when the house convened to carry through the election of a new PM through voting, the PTI again opted out of the session. Thus the opposition benches moved to the treasury benches in a smooth, democratic transition, so rare in our history.

Incoming PM (yet to take his oath of office at the time of writing these lines) Shehbaz Sharif delivered one of the most statesmanlike speeches ever heard by an elected Leader of the House. In his wide ranging address, he gave thanks that Pakistan had been saved from the potential conflict being engendered by the PTI through its unconstitutional manipulations to sabotage or prevent the vote of no-confidence against Imran Khan. The latter, not unexpectedly given his public persona and personality, instead of bowing out with grace, chose an ignominious exit.

Shehbaz Sharif’s address to the house reiterated the triumph of justice and the truth in the shape of the no-confidence vote whereby a selected PM was turfed out and with him, Imran Khan’s mountain of deceit, lies, half-truths and other shenanigans.

The Supreme Court (SC) was appreciated and congratulated by Shehbaz Sharif for its suo motu role in reversing the unconstitutional steps of Imran Khan, solely aimed at desperate last minute manoeuvres to save his sinking ship. He went on to assert (as have many others) that the SC has buried the doctrine of necessity that has distorted our jurisprudence for so long has finally been buried. One hopes so, but one sparrow does not a spring make. We hope the honourable SC and the judiciary as a whole will uphold this burial of the doctrine of necessity consistently in times to come.

Berating Imran Khan for waving a purported letter establishing a US-inspired conspiracy in cahoots with the combined opposition entire to bring about regime change, Shehbaz Sharif revealed that despite the outgoing government’s promise, the purported letter was neither shown to him nor is he aware of its contents. He revealed that the letter was a desperate attempt by Imran Khan to play the ‘patriotic card’ when the opposition had already been in consultations and after due deliberations, arrived at a consensus decision to move the motion of no-confidence. He promised an in-camera briefing in a parliamentary committee on the affair with the COAS and ISI chief present. He went on to assert that if even a shred of evidence was produced to substantiate Imran Khan’s wild charges of conspiracy and the opposition’s involvement, he would resign and go home.

Thanking the media and the lawyers’ community for their support for constitutional, democratic principles, Shehbaz Sharif briefly touched on the repression of and false cases against the opposition by Imran Khan. He ringingly declared that there are no traitors now or earlier, contrary to Imran Khan’s false and deceitful assertions. Even more importantly, Shehbaz Sharif stressed the need for national unity and dialogue, not confrontational deadlock, if the immense challenges left behind by the Imran Khan government were to be met, which could take years to cleanse the poison injected into the polity by Imran Khan and company.

This unity and cooperation, Shehbaz Sharif stressed, was the only way the economic disaster bequeathed by Imran Khan could be overcome. To alleviate the sufferings of the people during Imran Khan’s almost four years in office, Shehbaz Sharif announced the minimum wage would be raised countrywide to Rs 25,000 a month, salaried workers earning below Rs 100,000 per month would receive a 10 percent increase as would civil and military pensioners. Perhaps because of his lengthy stint as Punjab Chief Minister (CM), Shehbaz Sharif underlined that the smaller provinces’ grievances and deprivations would be addressed to avoid any notion that only Punjab would prosper under the new government. In other words, he stressed inclusiveness in economic and social development.

Dilating on foreign policy, Shehbaz Sharif outlined how Imran Khan had weakened ties with old friends like China, Saudi Arabia, the region, the European Union, UK, and even, despite a history of ups and downs, our critical relationship with the US. He mentioned the current difficulties being faced by the long suffering people of Afghanistan, Kashmir and the Palestinians. He vowed to support the Kashmir cause on all forums and appealed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resolve the Kashmir issue according to the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the people of Kashmir so that the poverty and deprivation of the peoples of Pakistan and India could be overcome.

Statesmanlike, with a healing touch, Shehbaz Sharif’s address to the NA provides hope afresh for Pakistan to tackle its internal and external problems, with the economy arguably occupying centre-stage. Of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating. But given the unprecedented unity of almost the entire opposition spectrum as was evident in the NA on April 11, 2022, the people of Pakistan have breathed a sigh of relief that they have seen the back of Imran Khan who visited such hardships on them, and rekindled their hope that a new, inclusive, broad based government composed of the combined opposition with Shehbaz Sharif at its head will translate ‘Punjab speed’, for which Shehbaz Sharif was famous as the province’s CM, into ‘Pakistan speed’, the term with which he ended his historic address as our new PM.

[email protected]

rashed-rahman.blogspot.com

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

Rashed Rahman

[email protected] , rashed-rahman.blogspot.com

Comments

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F Nawaz Apr 13, 2022 07:49am
By skipping the horse-trading incidents you have shown how 'democratic' you are. Got paid much?
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