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ISLAMABAD: Following the general elections last month that were riddled with allegations of rigging and irregularities, Shehbaz Sharif was elected on Sunday as the prime minister of the country for a second term by securing 201 votes.

The moment National Assembly (NA) Speaker Ayaz Sadiq declared that “Shehbaz Sharif has been elected prime minister with 201 votes […] Omar Ayub bagged 92 votes”, the members belonging to opposition Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) – came in front of prime minister’s dais and kept protesting with full-throated slogans throughout the speech of newly-elected PM Shehbaz.

The winner needed at least 169 votes as a simple majority in the 336-member house. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) boycotted the elections for the prime minister, while Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP) abstained from voting.

Holding placards inscribed with pictures of their jailed leader Imran Khan and “brushes and boot polish”, the PTI MPs kept shouting: “Cherry Blossom, Go Shehbaz Go, Go Nawaz Go, Maryam’s dad is a thief, mandate thieves,’ etc.

The protest became so intense due to which NA speaker had to call in the security of the house which encircled the protesting PTI lawmakers, while members belonging to PML-N kept shielding the prime minister.

However, Shehbaz continued his maiden speech amid sloganeering. He thanked his older brother Nawaz Sharif, claiming he was the one who built Pakistan.

He also thanked Pakistan’s People’s Party (PPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), Pakistan Muslim League-Zia (PML-Z), Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP), and National Party (NP) for electing him as the prime minister. “We will change the fate of the country. Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari, and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari never thought of harming Pakistan,” he said.

He claimed to bring political and economic stability to the country, saying “we will work closely with all four provinces and I promise I will keep them onboard”.

Shehbaz continued that his government would bring investment in to the country and create economic conditions to spur growth, emphasising that one-window export zones will be established in all provinces.

Elaborating on his government’s plans to steer the country out of the prevailing crises, he highlighted that out of the Rs12,300 billion generated by the country, Rs7,300 billion is given to the provinces under the National Finance Commission award and the government faces a whopping Rs7,000 billion deficit due to services charges worth up to Rs8,000 billion.

“Where will the money come for development, health, and education sectors? From where will the armed forces’, government employees’ salaries be paid,” he exclaimed.

“All this is being afforded via loans throughout the years […] This is the biggest challenge faced by the country today,” he noted.

“All of our salaries are being paid via taxes. Does such a situation warrant such hooliganism,” he said while referring to the slogans and chants being raised by the PTI-backed SIC opposition members.

On the issue of exorbitant electricity bills, he lamented that the circular debt stands at Rs2300 billion as only Rs2800 billion worth of recovery is made with Rs1000 billion gap, adding about Rs500 to Rs600 billion accounted for power theft whereas circular debt in gas sector reached to Rs2900 billion.

“There’s a gap of Rs1,000 billion which amounts to around $3.5 billion. Can this nation afford careless governance? I would call it a bottomless pit,” he said while lamenting electricity theft worth up to Rs500 to 600 billion each year.

Meanwhile, he added, that the circular debt of the gas sector has reached the grave figure of Rs29,000 billion due to the import of expensive liquefied natural gas (LNG) coupled with theft and issues with the distribution system.

Sharif regretted that state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were incurring Rs600 deficit per year and cited Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) which had been suffering from losses to tune of Rs800 billion in debt.

Terming the agriculture sector as the economy’s backbone, he said that his government would provide subsidies to the farmers and would also introduce a solar tube-well programme for them.

He also emphasized to work collectively with the support of all provinces to bring revolution in the agriculture sector under the guidelines of Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC).

He promised that the seed mafia would be eliminated soon and the country would import seeds from the best countries in the world to provide them to farmers.

Without taking any name, he took a jibe at the PTI for hounding the opposition when it was in power, going against the country’s national interests while resorting to levelling serious allegations against the armed forces.

“The perpetrators of the May 9 riots would be brought to justice, whereas, those who weren’t involved in the incidents would not be bothered,” he said while reaffirming the government’s commitment towards the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP).

On the government’s plan to stimulate business activities, he said that the government would abolish draconian and obsolete laws and regulations and would work with the provincial governments to establish a comprehensive network of export zones.

“Our goal is to secure G20 membership by 2030”, he added.

Banks are to be directed to allocate loans for the young generation, he added while announcing that the government would ensure that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is held accountable if it fails to ensure tax refunds within 10 days.

About his government’s foreign policy, he said that the government would not allow Pakistan to become part of some “great game”, adding the government would maintain cordial relations with the neighbouring countries based on the principles of equality.

He also said that visa-free entry into Pakistan from citizens of brotherly countries will be introduced.

Extending an olive branch to the opposition, the PM-elected called on the opposition parties to work with the government towards addressing the challenges faced by the country. Commenting on the issue of missing persons in Balochistan, he reassured that the government would engage in talks with the Baloch leadership and address their concerns whatever they may be.

Taking the floor after Shehbaz ’s speech, PTI-backed SIC lawmaker Omar Ayub Khan dubbed Shehbaz Sharif “a product of Form 47”.

The PTI termed the February 8 general elections as “rigged” and claimed that they had won the elections as per the results of Form 45s but their mandate was stolen and the results were changed in Form 47s.

Ayub accused the ruling alliance of denying a level-playing field to the party founding chairman Imran Khan. He also demanded to form a judicial commission to hold a probe into May 9 riots.

He also demanded the release of their party’s leadership including Imran Khan and women political prisoners. “Despite raids on our houses and arrest of our leaders, children […] all kind of barbarism and fascism, we stood our ground, and we will stand our ground till Imran Khan come out [from jail] and takes oath as prime minister of the country,” he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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Sajid Mar 04, 2024 11:38am
Welcome back disastrous PM of PDM 2.0
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