Imran Khan elected Pakistan prime minister by lawmakers

Imran Khan was elected by 176 votes compared to the 96 of his opposition rival Shehbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

world Updated: Aug 17, 2018 23:10 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times
Imran Khan,Pakistan,Pakistan prime minister
Newly elected parliamentarian Imran Khan, left, takes the oath of office with Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in Islamabad, Pakistan.(AP Photo)

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan was on Friday elected the country’s new prime minister by members of Parliament amid chaos and the shouting of slogans by the opposition.

Khan, 65, scraped together a simple majority in a confidence vote held in the 342-member National Assembly or lower house of Parliament, three weeks after an election tainted by claims of military meddling and ballot rigging.

“Imran Khan has secured 176 votes,” Speaker Asad Qaiser said after the vote that was broadcast live. He needed 172 votes for a majority. His only opponent, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif, secured 96 votes, with some opposition parties including the third-largest Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) abstaining from the vote.

Observers said Sharif could have polled more votes but a last-minute rift between opposition parties dented whatever chance the joint opposition had of putting up a fight against Khan.

Soon after, the prime minister-elect addressed parliament, with his maiden speech devoted to promises of “the change that this nation is starving for” and of action against those who had indulged in corruption or “looted the country”.

Khan said: “We have to have strict accountability in this country, the people who looted the country, I promise I will work against them.”

Responding to allegations of rigging in the elections, he said, “I did not climb on any dictator’s shoulders, I reached this place after struggling for 22 years. Only one leader struggled more than me, and that was my hero, (Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali) Jinnah. Twice every month I will answer to the people during the question-answer session in the assembly.”

Khan also took a dig at the opposition, especially the PML-N, saying: “I want to ask the people yelling here why didn’t they investigate the (rigging in the) four constituencies that I asked for…Why didn’t they hold people accountable? Why didn’t the (PML-N) government take action?

“You can make as much noise as you want or even hold a dharna – we will tell you how to organise a dharna.”

He also promised to bring back “looted wealth” sent outside the country, which he said should have been used for healthcare and education”.

Speaker Asad Qaiser had to suspend proceedings for 15 minutes because of the slogan-shouting by PML-N lawmakers. When the session resumed, he asked Khan to address the House as protests by the PML-N continued.

A visibly upset Shehbaz Sharif focused primarily on allegations of poll rigging in his speech. “Throughout the world, newspapers and outlets are raising accusations of rigging in the general elections,” he said. “This is the worst election in history in terms of rigging, the authorities must act against those responsible.”

He warned that opposition parties will “take to the streets” if a commission is not formed to probe the alleged rigging.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, in his first speech to the National Assembly, delivered a measured and mature address in Urdu and English. Though he said it was his “honour to become part of this House”, the 29-year-old criticised the “two biggest parties for creating a ruckus” in Parliament. He said the PPP had its reservations about the pre- and post-polling procedures but “decided to be a part of this House to support this fragile democracy”.

“If it weren’t for us Mr Speaker, you wouldn’t have your seat and the PM would not have his,” he said. “Our prime minister-elect has promised a 100-day roadmap. I want to see how he creates 10 million jobs, ends poverty.”

The recent election was branded “Pakistan’s dirtiest”, after widespread claims that the military tried to fix the playing field against the PML-N and in Khan’s favour.

First Published: Aug 17, 2018 18:27 IST