Shehbaz returns as PM for second time

Secures 201 votes against SIC-backed Omar Ayub who could get only 92 n In his victory speech in NA, PM-elect says challenges formidable but not insurmountable n Pledges to lead Pakistan on a path of progress, prosperity n Offers ‘charter of reconciliation’ to opposition to ensure political stability in country n Says Pakistan won’t partake in any ‘grey game’ as he aims to bolster ties with friendly nations, accelerate CPEC.


ISLAMABAD  -  Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) President Shehbaz Sharif was elected prime minister for a second time yesterday with a comfort­able majority in the voting held in the National Assem­bly. However, the session was marred by the ruckus created by the PTI-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) members. After the voting, National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq announced that Shehbaz Sharif had secured 201 votes while he needed 169 for a simple majority. His rival Omar Ayub, who was supported by PTI, won only 92 votes.

Shehbaz’s victory was expected as he enjoyed the support of seven other par­ties apart from the PML-N. The PM-elect has the sup­port of the Pakistan Peo­ples 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). After his election, Shehbaz Sharif, the newly-elected Prime Minister, took centre stage with a resolute vision to tackle the pressing is­sues gripping the nation. 

Meanwhile, the SIC law­makers started causing a commotion and chanted slogans to disrupt the She­habz’s speech.

In his maiden address to the National Assembly, he painted a portrait of a Pakistan grappling with runaway inflation, soaring costs of living, a looming energy sector crisis laden with circular debts, and a burdensome load of foreign debts. However, amidst these challenges, Shehbaz Sharif exuded an air of op­timism, declaring that while the challenges were formi­dable, they were not insur­mountable.

For Shehbaz Sharif the road ahead was clear yet arduous. Reflecting on the recent general elections and the formation of a co­alition government, he em­phasized the pivotal choice faced by the nation’s leader­ship to safeguard personal politics or to prioritize the nation’s interests. The de­cision, he said, was made in favour of the country’s fu­ture, as they resolved to col­lectively navigate Pakistan towards brighter horizons.

Sharif, who was greeted by PPP supremo Asif Ali Zardari, PPP chairman Bi­lawal Bhutto Zardari, elder brother Nawaz Sharif and others after winning the election, highlighted Paki­stan’s abundant natural re­sources and the untapped potential of its vibrant youth, envisioning a future where these assets would drive the country’s progress.

Urging all segments of soci­ety and political leadership to join hands, he stressed the need for a collective effort to confront the economic and social hurdles head-on. He said the economic and social challenges were myr­iad but at the same time, there was an opportunity, if they de­cided collectively to face them. The PM-elect said that as per estimates, the budget revenues stood at Rs12,300 billion and after the National Finance Com­mission (NFC) Award distribu­tion, the federal government was left with only Rs 7,300 bil­lion, out of which Rs8,000 bil­lion had been paid in interest and services charges, show­ing a deficit of Rs 700 billion. He wondered that from where they would have to get resourc­es for the development, educa­tion, health, salaries of the fed­eral government employees and the armed forces!

With a deficit of Rs700 bil­lion staring back, the Prime Minister-elect questioned the sources for development, ed­ucation, healthcare, and the sustenance of the armed forc­es and government employees. He said the challenges did not end as the energy sector, a vi­tal lifeline for Pakistan’s prog­ress, groaned under the weight of a Rs 2,300 billion circular debt in the power sector and a staggering Rs 2,900 billion in the gas sector. Shehbaz Sharif painted a grim picture of state-owned enterprises bleeding Rs600 billion annually, point­ing to tax evasion and power theft as bottomless pits drain­ing the nation’s resources.

Shehbaz Sharif stood unde­terred, proclaiming that these challenges, though daunt­ing, were not insurmountable. Drawing inspiration from the success stories of developed nations, he pledged to lead Pa­kistan on a path of progress and prosperity.

His vision was expansive, en­compassing a network of mod­ern health and educational fa­cilities, a green revolution to invigorate agriculture, and a robust infrastructure develop­ment plan. 

Technology and innovation would be the bedrock of this transformation, with a special focus on empowering women and providing youth with ac­cessible loans. The Prime Min­ister-elect delved into the in­tricacies of everyday life for Pakistanis. From launching so­lar tube-wells for farmers to eradicating the seeds mafia, he tried to touch all issues.

Education, a cornerstone of national progress, received special attention with plans to train 500,000 students in cut­ting-edge technologies. She­hbaz Sharif also underscored the importance of justice re­form, promising a swift and ef­ficient system in consultation with stakeholders. On foreign policy, he said, Pakistan would not partake in any ‘grey games,’ as he aimed to bolster ties with friendly nations, accelerate Chi­na-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, and aspire to G20 membership by 2030.

Shehbaz Sharif remained grounded in the harsh realities of the region. He condemned the atrocities in Gaza and held Kashmir, urging the opposition to join in denouncing these vi­olations of human rights. On climate change, Shehbaz Sharif highlighted Pakistan’s vulner­ability and pledged to invest in renewable energy, warning the oil mafia to transition swiftly to sustainable practices.

Offering a ‘charter of recon­ciliation,’ he invited the opposi­tion to collaborate on electoral reforms, emphasizing the im­portance of collective efforts in nation-building.

Shehbaz further said that about 500,000 students would be imparted the latest training, besides boosting the artificial in­telligence and IT exports. 

Farmers’ prosperity was linked with the country’s progress, he said, and announced that fertil­izers’ subsidy would be directly provided to the farmers.

A solar tube-wells pro­gramme would be launched for the smaller farmers, he said, adding the seeds mafia would be effaced as the upcoming government would import quality seeds, which would also work on an initiative to provide the same to the farm­ers for one time free of cost.

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).

The upcoming prime minister also announced laying of an effi­cient public transport network through the length and breadth of Pakistan, which he viewed as a key of progress achieved by the developed countries. 

He said that high achievers and performing children would be provided with the scholar­ships and their expenditures would be borne by the Feder­al Government for their educa­tion in the world’s renowned educational institutions. 

He also underlined the need for quick and speedy justice system with required reforms in consultations with all the stakeholders. 

Shehbaz Sharif announced that those jailed women and children who were not involved in hei­nous cases and completing their prison terms of less than two years, would be released and trained with skills to become useful citizens of the society.

He lamented that on May 9, unthinkable incidents hap­pened in the country’s histo­ry and said that the law would take its course and the respon­sible involved in those inci­dents who had hatched the conspiracy against the coun­try and its security institutions would have to face it, however, he hastened to add that inno­cents would be spared. 

The upcoming prime minister also announced to completely implement the National Action Plan to end the scourge of ter­rorism forever. 

In a veiled reference to the previous PTI’s government, he regretted that for the person­al interests, hardened terror­ists were brought back and re­leased from jails; which was the reason for a surge in recent terrorist incidents. 

To ensure minorities’ rights, it was their joint responsi­bility under the principles as laid down by the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) and guar­anteed by the Constitution of Pakistan, he added. 

He also reiterated ensuring equal rights to the women who comprised about 50 percent of the country’s population, add­ing the nation stood indebted to the contributions and sacrifices of Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah and Benazir Bhutto, as well as oth­er prominent female figures in different sectors as the national progress would not be possible without their involvement. 

The newly-elected prime min­ister said that his government would ensure a business friend­ly environment, and address is­sues impacting direct foreign in­vestment and tax collection. 

Shehbaz observed that tax re­fund delay was a hurdle for the exporters and he would direct the FBR (Federal Board of Reve­nue) to expedite the process, en­suring its payment in ten days. 

All the banks would be made to provide loans to the youth to run their small businesses under a similar parameter, he added.

He said nothing was impossi­ble and with strenuous efforts, Pakistan could become a mem­ber of G20 by 2030. 

Alluding to the bilateral ties with the United States, he said both countries enjoyed histor­ic relations and they would fur­ther strengthen them, similar­ly, efforts would be made to cement ties with the Europe­an Union, Gulf and neighbour­ing countries.

He particularly mentioned the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the deep affection and fraternal ties the both countries enjoyed and said that they were indebted to their generous assistance. 

Shehbaz also appreciated the leadership of Unite Arab Emir­ates, Turkiye and Qatar who al­ways supported Pakistan. 

Bilateral relations with Ku­wait, Bahrain and Iran would also be further cemented, he added.

In the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK), Kash­miris’ blood was spilled and the international community was silent, and everyone knew the reasons, he said and cited prec­edents of East Timor and Sudan where the world intervened due to obvious reasons. 

He asked the opposition to join them in adopting a resolu­tion condemning cruelties and gross human rights violations in Gaza and IIOJK. 

About the issue of PTI lead­ership’s letter to the Interna­tional Monetary Fund (IMF), he said that constitutional rem­edies were available over the election disputes. But writing a letter to a foreign institution was nothing less than show­ing enmity with the country, he said, adding that it also mani­fested that the Pakistan Teh­reek-e-Insaf ( PTI) leadership had no trust in the national in­stitutions and Parliament. 

Shehbaz invited the opposi­tion to sit together for the polls system reforms, adding that during 2018 elections, massive rigging was made. 

He said after a split mandate and under democratic norms, they had invited the Sunni It­tehad Council to form the gov­ernment. 

In the past, they had support­ed the former PTI government on FATF (Financial Action Task Force), Covid-19 and Kashmir issues by setting aside all polit­ical differences but they were not reciprocated with the same gestures. 

He also appealed to the oppo­sition to ponder over his con­tentions with cooler mind.

Shehbaz maintained that his upcoming government would address all the issues of Ba­lochistan, including the miss­ing persons’ matter.

The progress and develop­ment of Balochistan province was linked with the rest of the country, he added. 

Taking the opportunity to high­light the country’s history of po­litical turmoil, the prime minis­ter-elect lamented the “judicial murder” of PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and paid homage to his daughter and ex-prime minis­ter Benazir Bhutto for paying the ultimate price for democracy.

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