Pakistan’s new premier Shehbaz Sharif takes oath
By Aamir Latif and Islamuddin Sajid
ISLAMABAD (AA):Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has been sworn-in in the capital Islamabad on Monday.
Acting President Sajid Sanjrani, who is also the chairman of the upper house of the parliament, the Senate, administered the oath to the premier attired in black sherwani and shalwar (long coat and lose trousers).
President Arif Alvi, who was supposed to administer the oath, complained of “discomfort,” and went on leave for “a few days” on his physician’s advice, his office said on Twitter.
Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, heads of navy and air force, and leaders of the allied parties also attended the ceremony.
Earlier in the day, the parliament elected Shehbaz, former opposition leader, the country’s new prime minister.
Shehbaz, the younger brother of three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and a joint candidate of the combined opposition secured 174 votes in a 342-member lower legislative chamber, the National Assembly.
A minimum of 172 votes were required for a simple majority in the parliament.
Shehbaz’s election came following a successful no-confidence vote against former premier Imran Khan on Sunday.
His opponent, former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who was the candidate of the ousted premier’s PakistanTehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, boycotted the elections following his party’s decision to resign from the parliament.
In a passionate address to the house before boycotting the election, Qureshi said: “We cannot be part of this farce after proving that this entire exercise is the outcome of an international conspiracy.”
Ousted Prime Minister Khan together with over 120 PTI lawmakers announced that they are resigning from the parliament and “taking to the streets against an imported government.”
The resignations, however, will not be in effect until the speaker of the National Assembly accepts them, according to the country’s constitution.
Khan accuses the US of toppling his government for his “independent foreign policy.”
23rd prime minister
As soon as acting Speaker Ayaz Sadiq announced the results, lawmakers thumped desks and chanted slogans in favor of the newly elected premier, former President Asif Zardari, and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is currently in London.
Shehbaz, 70, was pivotal in the opposition’s push to topple Khan’s government.
Addressing the parliament, Shehbaz said relations with Turkey and other allies will be top priority of Pakistan’s foreign policy.
Pakistan and Turkey are locked in inseparable bonds and that Ankara has always stood alongside Islamabad, he said.
Turkey specific “immensely progressed” under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he added.
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Shehbaz on his election.
“India desires peace and stability in a region free of terror, so that we can focus on our development challenges and ensure the well-being and prosperity of our people,” Modi added.
Shehbaz has previously served as the chief minister of the key Punjab province, where he developed a reputation as an efficient administrator.
The new premier will serve for the remaining one and a half years tenure, while the possibility of early elections is more likely.
He is expected to announce his Cabinet in a day or two.
Shehbaz has called for improving ties with the US, terming them “critical” for Pakistan, a noticeable departure from Khan’s frosty relations with Washington that he accused of orchestrating his ouster.
The US on Monday voiced its support for Pakistan’s “peaceful upholding of constitutional democratic principles” after the country’s new prime minister took the oath of office.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki continued to maintain, however, that Washington does not “support one political party over another.”
“We value our long standing cooperation with Pakistan, have always viewed a prosperous and democratic Pakistan as critical to US interests,” she said. “That remains unchanged regardless of who leadership is.”
Khan, for his part, has announced that he would not accept the “imported government,” calling on his supporters to protest against the new regime.
Tens of thousands of his supporters took to the streets on Sunday night across the country to protest against Khan’s ouster, terming it a “foreign conspiracy.”
* Ahmad Adil in New Delhi contributed to this story.
[Photo: Photo of the news Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif when he was Pakistani Opposition Leader speaking to media representatives ahead of no confidence voting in Islamabad, Pakistan, on April 1, 2022. Photographer: Muhammad Reza/ Anadolou Agency ]