Promises to end power outages by Nov, automatic arms licences to be revoked
Sophia Siddiqui/Zahid Chaudhary
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi sworn in as prime minister of Pakistan on Tuesday after winning the polls for leader of the house in the National Assembly by bagging two hundred and twenty one votes.
President Mamnoon Hussain administered the oath to him. The ceremony was attended amongst others by the services chiefs and the chairman joint chiefs of staff committee.
PPP’s Syed Naveed Qamar took 47 votes, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rasheed 33 votes, and four MNAs voted for Jamaat-i-Islami’s Sahibzada Tariqullah during the ballot.
Following the announcement of Abbasi’s victory by NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, the PML-N benches in the Lower House erupted with loud sloganeering in favour of Nawaz Sharif.
Addressing the lower house soon after his victory, Prime Minister-elect Abbasi said: “I am grateful to you all, for following the democratic process — whether you voted for or against me.”
“I am grateful to the people of Pakistan, and I am grateful to the ‘people’s prime minister’, Nawaz Sharif,” he continued.
“I am also grateful to the opposition and Imran Khan for remembering us in their daily slandering,” he jibed.
Moving on, Abbasi termed the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Panamagate case “unprecedented”, saying that although the party was blind-sided by the judgement, “we accepted it as it was”.
“We did not challenge the courts, there was no division in our ranks. The party stands as it was. No one wanted to joust for power, rebuffing rumours of cracks in the party’s ranks following the verdict.
“Everybody wants the prime minister’s chair. Tell me, who in this house doesn’t? It is to the PML-N’s credit that all party members rallied unanimously behind whoever was nominated by our leader.
“Within four days, the democratic process is back on track. There were no defections. There was no dissension in our ranks.
“Justice mandates that though a 1,000 guilty people may go free, not even one innocent person should be wrongfully convicted. I will not go into details of Friday’s decision — I only want to say that there will soon be another court — one held by the people. There will be no JIT there,” he said, referring to the upcoming general elections in 2018.
“I am sure that the real prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, will return to this seat.”
However, he said that, “I am the country’s prime minister — bet it for 45 days or 45 hours — and am not here just to keep the seat warm.”
“If I am here for 45 days, I will try to complete the amount of the work that requires 45 months,” he vowed.
Continuing, the prime minister-elect urged that the Constitution be respected. “Politics, which has come to be seen as a disreputable profession, will be made respectable again.”
“Be it the government, bureaucracy, opposition or the army — we are in the same boat, and a hole in this boat will sink everyone,” he cautioned.
“We will continue taking difficult decisions,” Abbasi said, adding an integrated approach is required for security related matters. He said licenses of automatic weapons will be cancelled. Only police and the armed forces should be in possession of such weapons.
“There is not a single country in the world which allows the licensing of automatic rifles for citizens. The federal government will seize all automatic weapons, compensating people in return,” he promised.
He vowed to eliminate loadshedding by November this year as he highlighted various infrastructure and development projects initiated by his party’s government as examples of its commitment to the country’s growth.
“In Pakistan’s history, power projects with the capacity to generate 17,000 mega watts were set up before our government. We have added 10,000MW,” he said.
“One thing that is very close to my heart is [the collection of] taxes,” Abbasi continued.
“The perception here is that paying taxes is optional if my cabinet approves, I will go after the on non-taxpayers,” he promised.
Abbasi also briefly mentioned a focus on agriculture, education and health services.
“Agriculture is the backbone of the country,” Abbasi said. “Although I am not an agriculturalist, I feel their pain,” he said.
Speaking about the state of education, the prime minister called for improvements in higher education and the need for a national testing mechanism.
Abbasi also touched upon the PM’s Health Card scheme introduced by Nawaz Sharif – “the largest system in South Asia”.
PPP’s Naveed Qamar was given the floor next by the NA Speaker to share his remarks. He thanked his party leadership for allowing him to be nominated for the post of PM.
“My advice to the prime minister elect would be that the onus is on you. This seat has not been occupied very frequently in recent years and you will make it stronger if you continue to sit on it. Your power flows from this house, and if this house is strong, you will be strong,” he said, cautioning Abbasi that this would only be the case “if you pay attention to the members”.
“The advice you get from technocrats and others will sound very logical, but the advice you get from this house will be that which matters to the people.”
“You said you have 45 days, but I will nonetheless insist that you have 10 months. How much change can you bring about in this time? You will only progress if you focus on two or three areas and take them forward,” he advised.
“Prioritising agriculture will make the country stronger,” he said.
“The country and the country’s politics have reached a point where smooth transitions are not visible,” he lamented.”
“We are here to give you all the support you require, as long as you are working in the larger national interest.”
The AML’s Sheikh Rashid, the second runner-up, also congratulated Abbasi on becoming the prime minister-elect “through a democratic process”.
“However, it would have been great if you had talked about foreign policy in your speech,” Rashid remarked.
Rashid also expounded on shortcomings in the PML-N’s economic policy, including a $5 billion decrease in exports.