Pakistan's newly-elected Parliament votes to elect Speaker

PTI  | Deccan Chronicle

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The election of the Prime Minister will be held after election of the new Speaker who will supervise the election process of the premier.

A hand out image made available by the Pakistan National Assembly on August 13, 2018, shows (from L to R) Pakistan's cricketer-turned politician and head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) party Imran Khan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Khalid Maqbool , Sardar Akhtar Mengal and others taking the oath as Members of Parliament during the first session of the Parliament in Islamabad following general election. (Photo: AFP)

Islamabad: Pakistan's newly-elected members of Parliament on Wednesday met to elect the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, kicking off the process of transition and handing over powers to the new government.

The elections for the positions are being held through secret ballot.

Outgoing Speaker Ayaz Sadiq will preside over the proceeding to elect the Speaker and his deputy.

The election of the Prime Minister will be held after election of the new Speaker who will supervise the election process of the premier.

Strict security measures have been put in place to avoid any untoward incident during the proceedings and irrelevant persons have been barred from entering the house.

On Monday, Pakistan's Prime Minister-in-waiting Imran Khan along with 329 newly-elected members of the National Assembly took the oath, setting the stage for the cricketer-turned-politician to form the next government, only the second democratic transition of power in the country's history.

The maiden session of the 15th National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, saw Speaker Sadiq administer the oath to the leaders in the 342-member house, 19 days after Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party emerged as the single largest in the general elections.

Khan and other prominent leaders including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari also took oath.

The PTI has fielded former speaker of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Asad Qaiser for the post of Speaker and Qasim Suri for his deputy.

Joint opposition parties have nominated Syed Khursheed Shah of the PPP for the Speaker and Asad Rehman of Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) for the Deputy Speaker.

The nomination papers of all the four candidates have been accepted.

After the election, Sadiq will hand over the control of the house to his successor.

PTI senior vice president Shah Mahmood Qureshi told media that their candidates will easily win the majority votes.

"We will get the required number of votes in the house as our coalition partners are with us," he said, adding that the joint opposition alliance would soon fizzle out as cracks have begun appearing in their ranks.

He was referring to PPP expressing reservation over nomination of Shehbaz Sharif as the joint candidate of the opposition for the post of prime minister.

The PML-N, the PPP and the MMA forged an alliance after elections and decided to field joint candidates for the posts of Prime Minister, Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

They agreed that the Prime Minister candidate will be from the PML-N, Speaker from the PPP and Deputy Speaker from the MMA.

However, PPP's Khursheed Shah said that his party has "serious reservations" over Shehbaz's nomination due to his past controversial statements against their leadership.

On Monday, the Speaker announced that elections of the new Speaker and his deputy will be held on August 15.

The PTI emerged as the single largest party with 116 seats in July 25 elections. Its number increased to 125 after nine independent members joined it and final tally reached 158 after it was allotted 28 out of 60 seats reserved for women and 10 seats reserved for minorities.

The PTI has nominated Khan for the top post and he is scheduled to take oath on August 18 at the President House.

The new government faces a strong opposition as the PML-N has a final tally of 82 seats, followed by the PPP with 53 and MMA 15 seats.

The PTI has the support of smaller parties including Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) with seven seats, Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) five, Balochistan National Party (BNP) four, Pakistan Muslim League (PML) three, Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) three, Awami Muslim League and Jamori Watan Party one seat each.

This will be the third consecutive democratic government in Pakistan since 2008 when military ruler Musharraf announced general elections after serving as president from 2001 to 2008 following a coup in 1999.

The PPP formed the government in 2008, followed by the PML-N led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 2013.

Pakistan's powerful military has ruled the country through various coups for nearly half of the country's history since independence in 1947. Even during the civilian rule, the generals have wielded enormous power, setting the agenda for the country's foreign and security policies.