Election odyssey begins as president dissolves NA

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ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Wednesday dissolved the National Assembly on the advice of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, setting the stage for general elections latest by November 9.

The Constitution gives a 90-day timeframe for holding the elections upon the dissolution of the assembly before the end of its five-year term.

With the dissolution of the assembly, the country is all set to go to the general election, while it grapples with political and economic crises, despite being under an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan programme.

“The Prime Minister’s advice at para 6 of the summary is approved,” the summary signed by the president, who was in Lahore, stated. The prime minister’s advice dated Aug 9, 2023, sought dissolution of the assembly under the Article 58(1) of the Constitution.

The National Assembly was scheduled to complete its term on Aug 12 but the prime minister, while using his powers under Article 58(1) sought the dissolution just three days early.

According to the Constitution, the assembly will stand dissolved as soon as the president signs the advice. Article 58(1) states that the president shall dissolve the National Assembly if so advised by the prime minister; and the assembly shall, unless sooner dissolved, stand dissolved at the expiration of 48 hours after the prime minister has so advised.

With the president’s signature, the assembly stood dissolved now.

Subsequently, the prime minister was scheduled to meet the leader of the opposition on Thursday (today) afternoon to finalise the name of the caretaker prime minister.

Speculations about different contenders for the post of the caretaker prime minister have been doing the rounds for weeks now but there is no official word yet.

It all started when the government showed its intention a few weeks ago to dissolve the assembly earlier than its scheduled time so that it could get an additional month for the election campaign.

The situation was intensified when Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s name started gaining traction for the post of caretaker prime minister. Though several other names surfaced later on but the prime minister hasn’t ruled out Dar’s name yet.

Following his meeting with the opposition leader on Thursday (today), it is expected that a unanimously agreed upon name would be revealed.

Otherwise, under Article 224-A, if they both do not agree on a name within three days of the assembly’s dissolution, they shall forward two nominees each to a committee to be immediately constituted by the National Assembly speaker, comprising eight members of the dissolved assembly, or the Senate, or both, having equal representation from the treasury and the opposition, to be nominated by the prime minister and the leader of the opposition.

Earlier, in his farewell address on the floor of the National Assembly, Prime Minister Shehbaz said that he would advise the president to dissolve the assembly.

Following Shehbaz’s speech, the members of the assembly had a photo session in the parking area of the Parliament House. The members then returned and made farewell speeches.

Among them, former PML-N prime minsiter Shahid Khaqan Abbasi delivered a fierce speech. Talking to the media, Abbasi termed the outgoing assembly “the worst in the history of Pakistan”.

On the floor of the house, Abbasi questioned the performance of the outgoing government as well as asked how parliament could impose taxes on the people when the lawmakers did not pay taxes.

Several others lawmakers also made speeches on the floor of the house, recalling how they failed to help or uplift the poor – a tone usually adopted just ahead of elections – when the politicians promise to build bridges even where there are no rivers.

Just hours before sending the advice to the president, Shehbaz had said that his government’s 16-month tenure was the shortest-ever period for a government, particularly, when compared to the plethora of issues inherited from the previous regime.

The prime minister said that the coalition government also had to face massive challenges like the worst floods in the country and the signing of the IMF deal, which was not only breached by the PTI government but it also tried to hinder the process of signing the deal to hurt the economy and national integrity.

Blaming the PTI further, Shehbaz said that no one was victimised during his 16-month term, adding that he was not happy if a party leader – Imran Khan – had been punished.

“One should have the fear of Allah,” he said. “There is no question of distributing sweets.”

Reiterating the condemnation of the May 9 attacks, Shehbaz said it would be remembered as the “black day” in the history as it marked the “worst conspiracy” against the state of Pakistan, Pakistan Army and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Asim Munir, as well as those who sacrificed their lives to safeguard the nation.

However, due to the firmness showed by the army chief, he earlier told the federal cabinet, the situation got under control within hours.

Shehbaz said that he would meet the opposition leader Raja Riaz for consultation on finalising the name of the interim prime minister.

“These 16 months of my 38 years of political career were the toughest trial of my life when the country was faced with inflation, skyrocketing oil prices, and political turmoil,” the prime minister admitted, asking who would invest in a country when there were constant threats of long marches.

With the signing of the IMF agreement, he said the risk for default had ebbed away, despite the evil designs of those who tried to sabotage the process.

He said that the country was steered out of turmoil as a mechanism in the form of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) had been put in place to boost investment in agriculture, information technology, mining and exports sectors.

Meanwhile, Shehbaz lauded the coalition partners for demonstrating maturity, sincerity, dedication, and loyalty for bringing economic stability in the country.

He also paid rich tributes to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and expressed gratitude for PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif and all of the political leaders from both the ruling coalition and opposition parties for their support and guidance.

He said that the incumbent government tried to address the problems facing Balochistan and called for collective efforts to uplift the neglected province. He said that the country’s progress was linked with that of Balochistan.

He also appreciated the efforts and hard work of his cabinet members, particularly Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, for his “best diplomacy” and PPP’s Commerce Minister Naveed Qamar.

“The PPP should send him to the PML-N,” Shehbaz quipped in a lighter vein.

Earlier, while addressing the last federal cabinet meeting, he stressed the need for ensuring national unity as it was vital for socio-economic development of the country.

He said that the political leadership had set aside all their political differences and worked diligently to bring the country out of crises.

He also thanked China for supporting Pakistan during the crisis, as the IMF deal would not have been possible without its support.

“Chinese Premier Li had told me that he himself had talked to the IMF managing director to support Pakistan,” he revealed, adding that during the last four months, China had also rolled over a loan of $5 billion.

He said recently a high-level Chinese delegation visited Pakistan, which showed that Pakistan was China’s best friend and that the latter would extend all-out support to it.

The delegation had officially announced the launch of the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), encompassing many projects in agriculture, IT, Industries and export sectors, he added.

He said the initiative of establishing the SIFC would help improve the economic conditions. “The federal government, all provinces, and institutions, especially, Pakistan Army are part of this project” and it was the best opportunity to take the country’s development and prosperity to new peaks, he said.

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