The National Assembly on Monday elected Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif as the 23rd prime minister of Pakistan after lawmakers of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) announced their resignations from the lower house of parliament, leaving the field open for the opposition.
“Mian Shehbaz Sharif is declared as elected Prime Minister,” Ayaz Sadiq announced following the completion of the counting process.
The PML-N chief, a nominee of the joint opposition parties, received 174 votes for the top post days after PTI chief Imran Khan was ousted via a no-trust vote by the opposition parties.
Though the opposition alliance had the support of PTI's dissident members, they did not the cast vote and stayed in the opposition’s lobbies.
Shehbaz was also the candidate for the premiership in 2018 when Imran was elected as the PM with 176 votes. He had received 96 votes at the time.
The PML-N’s rival for the post was PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi; however, the former ruling party decided to quit the assembly at the eleventh hour citing allegations of imported regime change.
The PTI lawmakers had left the house while shouting slogans against the opposition parties’ leadership as well as the United States of America even before the voting began and the process of transition of power could be completed.
After the PTI lawmakers left the hall announcing resignations, Ayaz Sadiq started the voting process for the election of the chief minister. Ayaz also mistakenly pronounced Shehbaz Sharif as Nawaz Sharif. He then apologised to Shehbaz, saying he has "made the mistake because Nawaz was in his heart and mind".
Following the announcement of Shehbaz as the country's new premier, lawmakers started walking from the opposition benches to the treasury benches. However, with chairs empty on both sides of the aisle, many stayed where they were.
Suri defends ruling
Earlier in the day, the session to elect a new premier commenced after the recitation of the Holy Quran. The session was chaired by the deputy speaker who gave reasons behind his earlier ruling to dismiss the no-trust vote against Imran, which was set aside by Supreme Court.
"The ruling was declared unconstitutional by the court and we all are obliged to respect the court. But I want to tell you the reason behind my ruling," said Suri.
He added that the decision was taken "as a responsible Pakistani and deputy speaker of the NA".
Suri then referred to the diplomatic communiqué and said that the cable was discussed during the meeting of the NSC, in the federal cabinet and a parliamentary committee meeting. He added that it was “proven” that the no-trust motion was linked to a foreign conspiracy.
“On April 9, it was it was decided during a cabinet meeting that the cable would be declassified and sent to then-NA speaker Asad Qaiser by the government.”
The deputy speaker further said that the speaker of the house reviewed the cable as well.
"Talking about an independent foreign policy, independent economy … and fighting the case of Islamophobia Imran Khan's fault?"
"Was he [Imran] punished because he refused slavery?"
PTI senior leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi took the floor after the deputy speaker's clarification on his earlier ruling.
As the former foreign minister concluded his speech, PTI and its allies stood up from their chairs and left the assembly hall amid sloganeering.
As Qureshi finished his speech, Sure said his "conscience no longer allows him to be a part of the proceedings" and gave the chair of the house to PML-N's Ayaz Sadiq.
In a video message after the meeting of the PTI, the former information minister said PTI Chairman Imran Khan has decided that the PTI would not legitimise this 'foreign-funded regime change' in Pakistan by taking part in the election of the premier.
"The parliamentary meeting of the PTI gave Imran the complete authority to make decisions on the lawmakers’ behalf."
Fawad said as per the directions of Imran, no PTI lawmaker will vote in the election for the PM and after that, the PTI MNAs will also send their resignations to the National Assembly speaker.
He acknowledged that there was a difference of opinion over the decision to resign en masse from the assembly but the parliamentary party gave Imran the authority to make this decision who decided in favour of resignations.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan said that there were two mega corruption cases against PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif and it would be the “biggest insult to the country” to elect him as the prime minister of Pakistan.
— Hammad Azhar (@Hammad_Azhar) April 11, 2022
Earlier in the day, PTI General Secretary Asad Umar in a letter told party lawmakers to vote for Shah Mehmood Qureshi else they will be considered defectors and disqualified under Article 63-A.
Read Majority of PTI CEC members oppose resignation strategy: sources
“I take this opportunity to convey to you that all members of parliamentary party are required to attend the session of National Assembly on April 11 for election Prime Minister of Pakistan and vote in favour Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who has been nominated as the candidate for prime minister,” Umar wrote.
Election for PM
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi were likely to face off each other in the election for the new prime minister in the National Assembly.
The election for the prime minister or the leader of the house was triggered after the passage of the no-confidence motion moved by the opposition against then prime minister Imran Khan. The motion was passed after 174 National Assembly members voted in favour.
The joint opposition had fielded Shehbaz as its candidate for the post of prime minister, while the PTI had decided to field Qureshi, who served as the country’s foreign minister in Imran Khan’s cabinet. The winning candidate must get at least 172 votes in the 342-strong house.
Given the numbers shown by the joint opposition during the no-confidence motion indicated that Shehbaz, who was the opposition leader in the lower house of parliament, is likely to be elected as the next prime minister of the country.
Read: PTI dissidents ready to contest polls on PML-N ticket
The nomination papers for the post of prime minister were received and scrutinised by the National Assembly Secretariat on Sunday. Both Shehbaz and Qureshi filed their papers along with their respective party members of the National Assembly.
The deadline for submission of the nomination papers was 2 pm Sunday. The scrutiny process of the nomination papers began at 3 pm. Later, papers of both the candidates were found in order and accepted, which means that there will be a one-on-one contest in the lower house of parliament.
During the scrutiny process, Dr Babar Awan, former adviser to the prime minister on parliamentary affairs, raised objections over the nomination papers of Shehbaz. However, the objections were rejected by the National Assembly Secretariat.