Pak's newly-elected PM Shehbaz rakes up Kashmir issuer, pledges to improve ties with all leading nations, including neighbours

| | Islamabad
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Pak's newly-elected PM Shehbaz rakes up Kashmir issuer, pledges to improve ties with all leading nations, including neighbours

Sunday, 03 March 2024 | PTI | Islamabad

Pak's newly-elected PM Shehbaz rakes up Kashmir issuer, pledges to improve ties with all leading nations, including neighbours

Pakistan's newly-elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday raked up the Kashmir issue in his maiden address but pledged to improve ties with all leading nations, including the country's neighbours.

Shehbaz said that Pakistan would not become part of any "great game" and his government would increase the number of friends.

He pledged to build and improve ties with all leading nations, including neighbours.

"We will keep ties with neighbours on the basis of equality,” Shehbaz, 72, said as he easily won the election in the National Assembly to become Pakistan's prime minister for a second time.

Shehbaz, however, raked up the Kashmir issue and equated it with Palestine. “Let's all come together […] and the National Assembly should pass a resolution for the freedom of Kashmiris and Palestinians,” he added.

He also thanked his allies in the coalition government for putting their trust in him and making him Leader of the House.

"When my Quaid (leader Nawaz) was elected the prime minister thrice, the development that followed in the country is an example of its own. And it is not wrong to say that Nawaz Sharif is the one who built Pakistan,” Shehbaz said in his victory speech.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president thanked his elder brother Nawaz and all the allies for putting their trust in him and making him Leader of the House.

Shehbaz, who was the consensus candidate of the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), received 201 votes in the 336-member house.

Shehbaz's challenger Omar Ayub Khan of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) secured 92 votes.

Shehbaz said that the country was facing challenges primarily due to the fragile economy. He said that he was starting his tenure when the country was facing a budgetary deficit of more than one trillion rupees.

“How we will pay the salaries for armed forces and how to pay the civil servants,” he wondered and added that reforming the economy was the biggest challenge faced by the country.

Shehbaz highlighted the burden of debt paying and said that the country was required to pay billions of rupees in interest only.

He highlighted that the energy sector was crumbling due to the accumulating debt owed by the country to the power-producing companies. He also mentioned that state-owned entities like Pakistan International Airlines were running into losses worth billions of rupees.

He promised to put the country on the path of development and announced to overcome all hurdles. “Though it is easier said than done, we will fulfill our task,” he said.

Shehbaz said that the government was determined to bring the country out of the current crisis. “I don't want to set any deadline but due to various steps we will take, the positive results will start pouring in after a year,” he said.

He promised to bring investment into the country and create economic conditions that would spur economic growth. He also vowed to spread the web of “one window” export zones in all four provinces and work day and night to fulfil all these promises.

The newly-elected premier vowed to make Pakistan "self-sufficient". "We will rise and we will make Pakistan self-sufficient," said Shehbaz.

"There are talented people sitting in this Parliament who can steer Pakistan's ship to the shore […] these include journalists, intellectuals, politicians, religious leaders,” he said.

Shehbaz said Pakistan had a big challenge and opportunity before it. “If we come together and decide to change the fate of Pakistan […] then God willing, we will defeat these challenges and take Pakistan to its rightful position,” he said.

He highlighted that this job was difficult but not impossible.

"Back to the good old days of development! Onwards and upwards. Nawaz Ka vision, Shehbaz Ka mission,” the PML-N said in a post on X along with a picture of both the leaders.

“The other name of deliverance is MUHAMMAD SHEHBAZ SHARIF,” it said in another post.

The session of the new parliament was convened amid ruckus and sloganeering by PTI-backed lawmakers.

In his speech, Shehbaz also said that the nation would always remember the sacrifices of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the maternal grandfather of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

He also announced the elimination of terrorism from the country by following the already adopted National Action Plan to deal with extremism in the country.

Shehbaz also targeted his rivals Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf for attacking the national institutions and army buildings on May 9 last year when supporters of Imran Khan resorted to violent protest against his arrest in a case of alleged corruption.

"It is shameful that the country saw a day when GHQ, corps commander houses, airfields were attacked on May 9,” Shehbaz said, adding that such sights are unforgettable.

He said that the PTI put the entire opposition behind bars without caring about women or children and used language that cannot be said out loud. “This is the difference between this leadership and that leadership; the entire assembly is witness to the fact that we never thought of the politics of revenge,” he said.

Shehbaz also said that those responsible for the May 9 incident would not be spared while saying that all innocent people implicated in various cases would be spared.

Opposition PTI lawmakers kept on shouting slogans during the speech by the prime minister who, undeterred by the rowdyism continued his address and made a long speech on the occasion. He asked the opponents to seek recourse to the national institutions to get the complaints about rigging redressed.

Shehbaz also questioned why Imran Khan wrote a letter to the International Monetary Fund which he said was tantamount to inviting foreign intervention in the affairs of the country. He offered reconciliation to the opposition and invited them to also cooperate to address the economic issues.

He will be administered the oath of office on Monday at the Presidential mansion, Aiwan-e-Sadr.

Shehbaz earlier served as prime minister of a coalition government from April 2022 to August 2023 before Parliament was dissolved to hold general elections.

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