Home Latest News Shehbaz Sharif Calls for Unity to Tackle Prevailing Crises

Shehbaz Sharif Calls for Unity to Tackle Prevailing Crises

P.M.-elect describes agriculture as backbone of economy, vows to facilitate farmers through subsidies and solar tube wells

by Staff Report

Photo courtesy PID

The National Assembly on Sunday elected Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) President Shehbaz Sharif as the 24th elected prime minister of Pakistan in a session marred by loud jeers and sloganeering by members of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), which primarily consists of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed independents.

“Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has been elected prime minister with 201 votes. [PTI+SIC candidate] Omar Ayub obtained 92 votes,” announced Speaker Ayaz Sadiq after the polling, which saw 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) supporting the PMLN candidate. The JUIF and the Balochistan National Party both refused to support either candidate.

Sharif was then invited to give his inaugural address as the only prime minister in Pakistan’s history to have secured a second consecutive term. Even before he started, SIC lawmakers started chanting slogans, declaring him an “illegal” prime minister. This ruckus continued throughout his nearly 90-minute speech.

The P.M.-elect then started his speech by thanking PMLN leader, and his elder brother, Nawaz Sharif for nominating him for the post, as well as all allied parties for supporting his candidacy. Recalling the country’s history of political turmoil, he lamented the “judicial murder” of PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and paid homage ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto for paying the ultimate price for democracy.

Without directly naming it, he also slammed the PTI for hounding the opposition during its time in government; violating the national interest; and levelling serious allegations against the armed forces. “This is the difference between the leaderships. The House is witness that the [PMLN] has never even thought of indulging in politics of vengeance,” he maintained, while urging the opposition to work with the government to address the challenges facing the country.

On the new government’s plans to steer the country out of crises, Sharif said everyone must work together to change the country’s destiny. Noting that of the Rs. 12,300 billion annually generated by the country, Rs. 7,300 billion were given to provinces under the National Finance Commission Award, he said another Rs. 8,000 billion were needed for services charges, leaving the state in perpetual deficit.

“Where will the money come for development, health and education sectors? From where will the armed forces’ government employees’ salaries be paid?” he questioned, regretting this was paid through loans that had to paid back in ever-larger sums. “All of our salaries are being paid via taxes. Does such a situation warrant such hooliganism?” he said, pointing to the ruckus of SIC members.

On exorbitant electricity bills, the P.M.-elect lamented that the circular debt stands at Rs. 23,000 billion, as only Rs. 28,000 in bills are recovered against the Rs. 38,000 worth provided to consumers. “There’s a gap of Rs. 1,000 billion, which amounts to $3.5 billion. Can this nation afford careless governance?” he questioned, describing it as a “bottomless” pit.

He similarly said the circular debt of the gas sector had reached Rs. 29,000 billion due to the import of expensive LNG coupled with theft and issues with the distribution system. “The state-owned enterprises are in a loss of Rs. 600 billion … The PIA alone is in debt of Rs. 800 billion,” he said.

Describing the agriculture sector as a backbone of the economy, he said his government would provide subsidies to farmers and introduce a solar tube well program for them.

“Perpetrators of the May 9 riots would be brought to justice; those who weren’t involved in the incidents would not be bothered,” he said, and maintained the new government would ensure the implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism.

On the government’s plan to stimulate business activities, he said draconian and obsolete laws and regulations would be abolished and collaboration with provincial governments increased to establish a comprehensive network of export zones. “Our goal is to secure G20 membership by 2030,” he claimed.

He said women should be given equal pay as men, lamenting the prevailing gender-based discrimination in society. Similarly, he continued, banks would be directed to allocate loans for youth, adding the government would ensure the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) was held accountable if it failed to ensure tax refunds within 10 days.

On his government’s foreign policy, the P.M.-elect said the government would not allow Pakistan to become part of some “great game.” He vowed Pakistan would maintain cordial relations with all neighboring countries based on the principles of equality. He also said Pakistan would implement visa-free entry for all citizens of brotherly countries.

Commenting on the issue of missing persons in Balochistan, Sharif vowed the government would engage in talks with the Baloch leadership and address all their concerns.

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