Former prime minister and PPP leader Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Saturday was elected unopposed as the 22nd speaker of the National Assembly.

PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq, who was initially chairing the session, administered the oath on Ashraf. The PPP lawmaker was the lone contender for the speaker’s position as no other candidate had submitted nomination papers against him.

The office of the speaker had fallen vacant after Asad Qaiser tendered resignation in line with the PTI’s decision minutes before the voting on the no-confidence resolution against Imran Khan.

Sitting in the speaker’s chair, Ashraf gave a brief speech where he thanked his party leaders for deeming him worthy of the position. He also thanked the prime minister and the members of the assembly.

He said that a “new tradition” had been initiated in parliamentary history, adding that the speaker was the custodian of the house. He went on to say that for the past three years, the house had been “incomplete” as the former opposition went unheard.

“I consider it my duty to not to let the voice of the opposition get suppressed,” he said, adding that it should be heard and respected.

“There is a saying in English that the majority has its way, but the opposition must have its say. We must always keep this in view,” he said, adding that “consultation among institutions is the spirit of the Constitution.”

Speaker Ashraf stated that all parliamentary and standing committees needed to be activated and strengthened. “Parliamentary democracy is the best way to resolve issues between countries.”

He said that there were many lawmakers though whom the honour of Pakistan and its democratic institutions could be increased. “This can be achieved by our participation in parliamentary friendship groups and international parliamentary institutions.”

He went on to say that parliament was incomplete without an active press and sought the cooperation of the Parliamentary Reporters Association as well as the guidance of senior journalists.

Ashraf said that as the NA speaker, he would also try to maintain parliament’s ties with bar councils, human rights and labour organisations as well as students’ unions.

“The participation of women is the secret behind the success of this house. I expect them to participate fully in proceedings,” he said, vowing to defend women’s rights.

He added that he considered young and minority members of the house his “real strength”, adding that he expected them to raise people’s issues without any fear.

“Pakistan is at a critical point where the choice is between an enlightened and progressive country or one where society is divided.”

The NA Secretariat had issued a four-point agenda for today’s sitting that included voting on the no-confidence resolution against Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, the election of the speaker and his oath-taking. However, Suri resigned less than an hour before the session was scheduled to begin.

Sadiq began the session by announcing that Suri had resigned, which was met by loud applause from the lawmakers present. He said that Suri’s resignation had been verified by the NA secretariat, which would later issue the schedule for the election of the deputy speaker.

“Since the deputy speaker has resigned from office there is no need to take up agenda item two and three,” he said, giving the floor to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

PM SHEHBAZ SPEECH: PM Shehbaz began his speech by saying that loadshedding was currently underway in parts of the country. “During the past three days, my team and I held meetings with the ministries of petroleum and finance. The current situation is that the country has the capacity to generate 35,000 MW of electricity.”

This capacity is enough to meet the needs of the country, he said. However, he regretted that several new power plants were not functioning due to a gas and oil shortage, holding the previous government responsible for “gross mismanagement and incompetence”.

He said that when officials were asked why gas was not bought when it was available for $3-4 in the spot market, he was told that they did not have any support and were afraid. “Today gas prices are $30-35 per unit”.

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