- Shehbaz Sharif underscores the need for hard work to bring the economy back on track
ISLAMABAD: The newly-elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, on Monday revealed his government’s upcoming plans which envisage, increasing up to Rs25,000 minimum wage, and 10 percent increase in pensions from April 1, 2022, besides “urging” business community to give a 10 percent increase to those employees with salaries up to Rs100,000.
Shehbaz was elected as the 23rd Prime Minister of Pakistan by securing 174 votes in the voting for the new leader of the house in the wake of removal of his predecessor Imran Khan through a vote of no-confidence on April 10, 2022.
Announcing the results of the election, Presiding Officer Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said Shehbaz Sharif secured 174 votes and no vote was polled in favor of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate Shah Mahmood Qureshi, as the party tendered resignations prior to the vote for the new leader of the house and also announced to boycott the election.
In his maiden address to the National Assembly following his election as the leader of the house [Prime Minister], Shehbaz Sharif announced that he would be making arrangements for an in-camera briefing of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security to discuss and determine the authenticity of the “threat letter” that former prime minister Imran Khan claimed contained evidence of a “foreign conspiracy” to topple his government.
Detailing the policy measures, the newly-elected prime minister expressed his resolve to rebuild Pakistan, announcing that his government would increase the minimum wage to Rs25,000 from April 1, 2022, adding that necessary legal procedures would be undertaken regarding the increase in wage with the help of the provinces.
He said that efforts would be made for making Pakistan a “paradise for investments” and appealed to the business community to increase 10 percent salary of their employees drawing Rs100,000 or less. He also announced a 10 percent increase in the pension of civil and military pensioners. This, too, would be implemented from April 1, 2022, he said.
He said that wheat flour would be made available at cheaper rates under a Ramzan package. Besides, he added that the high prices of electricity would be addressed and measures will be taken for the progress of smaller provinces.
He said that people have been suffering a lot due to high inflation and unemployment. During the last government, he added that six million people became unemployed and 20 million were pushed below the poverty line.
“Thanks Allah Almighty for saving Pakistan… and good has prevailed over evil,” he said after taking the floor as the prime minister elect, adding that it is for the first time in Pakistan’s history that a no-confidence motion against a prime minister had been passed.
“Today is a ‘big day’ for the entire nation when a ‘selected’ prime minister was sent packing in a legal and constitutional manner,” he said, adding that the dollar’s value has declined by Rs8 which signified the happiness of the people.
He also thanked the Supreme Court for burying the “doctrine of necessity forever,” adding that in future, no one will be able to rely on such a doctrine anymore.
“The day when the apex court ruled against the dismissal of the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan by the deputy speaker should be remembered as one when the supremacy of the Constitution and parliament was established,” he added.
Terming the “secret letter” as a “drama”, he said that for the past many weeks, “lies” were told about the letter, which was said to contain evidence of a foreign conspiracy to topple the PTI government.
He said the NA Speaker and his deputy speaker had waved the “threat letter” in the assembly, claiming he had requested the NA secretary to show it to him, when he was the leader of the opposition. “But neither did I see it nor anyone had shown it to me so far…It was a “lie, drama and fraud,” he said, adding that soon he will arrange an in-camera meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security to be briefed on the “letter”.
He said that all the services chiefs, the DG ISI and the then Ambassador to US Asad Majid would also be invited to the meeting to brief the participants on the alleged foreign conspiracy.
He added that the PTI had been alleging that they had received the “letter” on March 7, a day before the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan was filed, adding that he had been meeting PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on the no-trust move since the start of March.
He further stated that the PML-N central executive committee meeting held on March 3, which was chaired by Nawaz Sharif from London via a video link and PPP held a separate meeting of its own on the no-confidence motion.
“Following that we decided that we would table a vote of no-confidence motion against the most “corrupt and incompetent” government in history,” he said, adding that the matter was then discussed with the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and consequently, the motion was tabled in the house on March 8.
“The nation should know whether they have been lied to and even if an iota of evidence of a foreign conspiracy was found, I will go home,” he pledged, adding that this debate should be laid to rest. “No one was a traitor and no one is a traitor,” he asserted.
About his plans for improving the economy through “unity”, Shehbaz said that he had been saying it many times that a “life of debt is no life.”
He termed the country’s economic situation very “serious” and underscored the need for hard work to bring the economy back on track.
“If we have to survive, we have to do it like an honourable and self-relying nation. Otherwise, we cannot reclaim our lost status. If we have to take the economy forward, we will have to opt for dialogue over deadlock, and rapprochement over disagreements,” he underscored.
Criticizing the PTI’s slogan for “change”, he said that ‘change’ does not come simply by rhetoric.
“Our society has been poisoned for the past few years and it will take years to clean this “poison’. And this will only be possible if we stay united. Otherwise, difficulties and disappointment will be our destiny,” he said.
Further emphasizing the need for unity, he said that there was need for unity and hard work, “if we have to save the sinking boat”. “The situation is very bad, but, God willing, it will change if we work hard,” he said, adding that the PTI government had rejected his proposal of a “charter of economy”.
“Had the PTI government not rejected the charter of economy in a humiliating manner, the economy would not have been in such a bad state today,” he added.
He also announced that “Benazir Card” would be reintroduced, which was renamed in the PTI government’s tenure, adding that the BISP be expanded to cover education.
“Punjab is the elder brother but not the entire Pakistan. We will take smaller provinces along ourselves and move forward,” he pledged, adding that the youth of Balochistan, erstwhile Fata and other provinces will be equipped with technical education and skills instead of weapons.
Talking about foreign policy, he criticized the PTI government over its foreign policy, saying that Pakistan’s strategic partners and friends had left it while it remained silent on the Kashmir issue.
Emphasizing the importance of having good relations with China, he alleged that the previous government had attempted to weaken the friendship between Pakistan and China. “But this friendship [with China] is for forever and I assure that we will make progress on the CPEC,” he stated and also thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for giving the CPEC to Pakistan.
He also emphasized the importance of having good ties with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, European Union nations, the United Arab Emirates, Britain, and Iran. He also said relations with the United States need to be strengthened on the basis of equality and mutual respect. He also stated that the situation in Afghanistan is dire and there is a need to raise the voice for peace and development in Afghanistan.
He said that the European Union is the biggest destination of Pakistani textile exports as 50 percent of Pakistan’s textile goods go to the European countries. He expressed the confidence that GSP Plus status for Pakistan will be renewed.
About India, he said that Pakistan wants good neighborly relations with India, but durable peace is not possible without resolution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions. He said Pakistan will continue extending its moral, diplomatic, and political support to the people of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
He also advised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to realise that there is poverty, unemployment, and disease on both sides of the border.
“Why do we want our coming generations to suffer. Come, let’s resolve the Kashmir issue in line with the UN Security Council resolutions and Kashmiris’ expectations, so that we are able to end poverty on both sides of the border,” he further advised Modi.
He also expressed the resolve to raise voice over Palestine and for the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.
Shehbaz also thanked the leaders of the allied parties who extended support to him and voted him as the 23rd prime minister of Pakistan.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022