Pervaiz Ashraf is the new Prime Minister
ISLAMABAD: Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was elected the country’s 25th Prime Minister on Friday after securing 211 votes. He had originally been intended to be a mere covering candidate for Makhdoom Shahabuddin but his fortunes turned when Makhdoom had to bow out due to the registration of a criminal case against him by the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF).
Soon after his election as the prime minister of Pakistan, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf pledged to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Yusuf Raza Gilani, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court, and promised to hold free, fair and transparent elections.
“I pay rich tribute to my predecessor, who upheld the Constitution despite all difficulties and odds. I salute him for setting new democratic traditions,” the newly-elected prime minister said in his maiden speech. He is the fourth prime minister of the PPP.
Raja Pervaiz Ashraf got 211 votes and the PML-N’s candidate for the slot, Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Abbasi, obtained 89 votes. JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman dramatically announced the withdrawal of his candidature on the floor of the house just before the announcement of the voting procedure by the National Assembly speaker. Eight parliamentarians of the JUI-F, one of JUI-Nazriati and Fata MNA Mualana Abdul Malik abstained.
Out of the total strength of 338 members of the National Assembly, 300 cast their votes. Aftab Ahmed Khan Sharpao and independent member Saima Bharwana supported the PML-N candidate, while six legislators of the PML-N, including Khwaja Asif and Anusha Rehman, were not present in the house.
Interestingly, six members of the PML-Q likeminded group were conspicuously absent from the house to avoid any constitutional action of losing membership of the house if they voted against party discipline.
ANP’s Asfandyar Walik Khan and PPP’s Nasir Shah from Quetta also did not attend the meeting. The house comprised 338 members instead of the sanctioned strength of 342, as three seats have been vacant, including that of Yusuf Raza Gilani, the late Fauzia Wahab and one parliamentarian from North Wazirisatan. The membership of Farahnaz Isphani was also suspended on the orders of the Supreme Court in the dual nationality case.
Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat, who had moved the Supreme Court against the rental power projects, also voted in favour of the PPP candidate. Sources said Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and his son, Moonis Elahi, brought Saleh Hayat to parliament from his residence and convinced him to vote in the favour of PPP candidate.
Fazlur Rehman, before the start of the election process for the prime minister, stood up on a point of order and requested the speaker to follow the parliamentary tradition of the house to adjourn the house in respect of late Fauzia Wahab. However, Syed Naveed Qamar opposed the point of order, saying: “Only the regular session of the house can be adjourned in lieu of death of a member. This is a special session and was specially convened for the purpose of ascertainment of the prime minister.”
After his election, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said Yusuf Raza Gilani had strengthened the democratic institutions and ensured supremacy of the Constitution. “We will ensure the supremacy of parliament and will not allow anybody to use the power given by the people of the country to parliament.”
Raja said at this crucial stage, it was imperative for all democratic forces to come forward and play their due role for strengthening democracy. He said his government would ensure free, fair and transparent elections acceptable to the people of the country. He called upon the opposition parties to come forward to play their due role for ensuring neutral elections. “We do not want to have politics of confrontation and will continue the politics of reconciliation in line with the vision of Benazir Bhutto. We don’t want the politics of confrontation nor do we have any passion for it,” he added.
The newly-elected prime minister said extremism and terrorism had caused an irreparable loss to Islam and Pakistan, appealing to all extremists groups to lay down their arms and enter the national stream.He said the present government, during its four-year-long tenure, took historical decisions for the uplift of masses and put the country on the path of the development.
He claimed initiatives like the National Finance Commission Award, passing of 18th, 19th and 20th amendments, giving identity to Gilgit-Baltistan and development in Balochistan were the big achievements of the government.
Raja Pervaiz said efforts would be made to reduce unemployment and end the energy crisis in the country. “We will expand the agriculture sector along with the development of industrial sector. The solution to the problems of Balochistan will be my first priority. We will contact the Baloch people and will have a dialogue with the Baloch leadership to bring prosperity and development in the province.”
PM Raja said the government wanted to have good relations with Pakistan’s neighbours, including Afghanistan, India and Iran. “We want to resolve all outstanding issues, including the Kashmir issue, through dialogue and ongoing dialogue process with India will be widened,” he added.
He said Pakistan’s friendship with China was exemplary and was strengthening day by day. “We will also improve relations with Islamic countries and consolidate our ties with the European Union. We will establish our relations with the United States and world countries on the basis of equality and sovereignty,” the premier added.
He said peace in Pakistan could not be established without peace in Afghanistan. He said the PPP was founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the late Benazir Bhutto had upheld the flag of the party by giving her life.
He said workers and democratic forces made matchless sacrifices for democracy in the country, adding that the chair of the prime minister was the legacy of Shaheeds.
Meanwhile, PML-N candidate Sardar Mehtab Abbasi said the government had pushed the country into a new darkness of disappointment. “He is the Raja Pervaiz Ashraf who is responsible for the energy crisis, playing havoc with industry and bringing the country’s economy at the verge of bankruptcy,” he added.
Abbasi also commented on the remarks of Pervaiz Ashraf that the chair of the prime minister was the legacy of martyrs. “If he considers Yusuf Raza Gilani a martyr, then should we also wait for him to become a martyr in the next few days,” he added.
One of the PML-N parliamentarians raised the slogan ‘Raja Rental’ when Abbasi was criticising Pervaiz Ashraf for his tenure as minister for water and power.Abbasi, in his speech, said the country faced terrible loadshedding when Pervaiz Ashraf was the minister of water and power. “This crisis rendered thousands of people jobless and led to the closure of industry. Incumbent rulers are responsible for accumulating circular debt to the tune of Rs400 billion.”
Abbasi said the new prime minister talked about achievements of the incumbent government, but what “he said is against the facts.” “In the last four and a half years, the PPP and its allies have given unimaginable punishments to the masses,” he said.
He said the objective of the Gilani government was to keep the institutions of the country on the path of a clash. Abbasi paid rich tributes to Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry for summoning his own son to court. “The government, through a rich business tycoon, attacked the superior judiciary and hats off to the chief justice who set the precedent of summoning his own son in the court,” he said.
Mehtab Abbasi asked the government to take immediate steps to end loadshedding.In response to the speech of Abbasi, PPP chief whip Syed Khurshid Shah proposed the formation of a commission to decide who was responsible for the energy crisis starting from 1993 to 2008, and from 2008 to-date.