Shahid Khaqan Abbasi takes over as Pakistan's 18th Prime Minister

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Shahid Khaqan Abbasi takes over as Pakistan's 18th Prime Minister
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi takes over as Pakistan's 18th Prime Minister

Islamabad : PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday took oath as the 18th Prime Minister of Pakistan, after he swept the National Assembly election with a majority vote, five days after the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court.

President Mamnoon Hussain administered oath to Abbasi, who secured 221 of 339 votes in the National Assembly. After winning the election, Abbasi said though he was the interim Prime Minister, he was not there just to "keep the seat warm".

Abbasi took oath of his office at a solemn ceremony, which had the armed forces chiefs, governors, members of the parliament, and prominent political and social figures in presence.

The ruling PML-N head Nawaz Sharif, his brother and Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif and Chaudhry Nisar did not attend the ceremony. Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa attended the oath-taking ceremony, where he also interacted with guests.

Asked by a journalist as to how does he see the democratic process, the army chief replied: "Democracy is progressing; it is a good thing," Geo News reported.

In the National Assembly election, PPP's Syed Naveed Qamar secured 47 votes, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid received 33 votes, and four MNAs voted for Jamaat-i-Islami's Sahibzada Tariqullah.

An NA session to elect a new Prime Minister had been called by President Hussain following a landmark Supreme Court ruling on the Panama Papers case on Friday, in which Nawaz Sharif was disqualified as PM after being deemed unfit to hold office.

Following the SC verdict, the PML-N had agreed upon Abbasi, former Petroleum Minister, as its candidate for Prime Minister for the interim period till a 'permanent' replacement is elected. 

Abbasi has to eventually give way to Shahbaz Sharif, who is likely to compete for the National Assembly seat lying vacant following the ouster of his elder brother and then stand for the chief executive's office.

Following the announcement of Abbasi's victory by Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, the PML-N benches in the Lower House erupted with loud sloganeering in favour of Nawaz Sharif.

Addressing the lower house after his victory was announced, Abbasi expressed his gratitude to everyone for the victory.

"I am also grateful to the opposition and Imran Khan for remembering us in their daily slandering," he jibed.

Moving on, Abbasi termed the Supreme Court's verdict on the Panamagate case "unprecedented", saying that although the party was blind-sided by the judgement, "we accepted it as it was".

"We did not challenge the courts, there was no division in our ranks. The party stands as it was. No one wanted to joust for power - whoever the Prime Minister (Nawaz Sharif) named was supported unanimously," he said, rebuffing rumours of cracks in the party's ranks following the verdict, Dawn reported.

"Everybody wants the (prime minister's) chair. Tell me, who in this house doesn't? It is to the PML-N's credit that all party members rallied unanimously behind whoever was nominated by our leader.

"Within four days, the democratic process is back on track. There were no defections. There was no dissension in our ranks.

"Justice mandates that though a 1,000 guilty people may go free, not even one innocent person should be wrongfully convicted. I will not go into details of Friday's decision - I only want to say that there will soon be another court - one held by the people. There will be no JIT there," he said, referring to the upcoming general elections in 2018.

"I am sure that the real prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, will return to this seat."

However, he said that: "I am the country's prime minister - bet it for 45 days or 45 hours - and am not here just to keep the seat warm."

"If I am here for 45 days, I will try to complete the amount of the work that requires 45 months," he vowed.

Continuing, the prime minister-elect urged that the Constitution be respected. "Politics, which has come to be seen as a disreputable profession, will be made respectable again."

"Be it the government, bureaucracy, opposition or the army - we are in the same boat, and a hole in this boat will sink everyone," he cautioned.

"We will continue taking difficult decisions," Abbasi said as he promised to take action against "private militias" providing security to citizens.

The premier, carrying forward Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N's promises, vowed to eliminate loadshedding by November this year as he highlighted various infrastructure and development projects initiated by his party's government as examples of its commitment to the country's growth.

"In Pakistan's history, power projects with the capacity to generate 17,000 mega watts were set up before our government. We have added 10,000MW," he said.