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Pakistan’s new ruling coalition appoints new parliament speaker

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Raja Pervaiz Ashraf

Pakistan’s new ruling alliance has taken control of parliament after appointing former Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf as the new speaker of the National Assembly.

On Saturday, Pakistan's new ruling alliance elected unopposed 71-year-old Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, a former premier from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), as the 22nd speaker of the country's National Assembly.

Early this week and following a week-long constitutional crisis, the parliament elected 70-year-old Shehbaz Sharif, who has a reputation in Pakistan as an effective administrator more than as a politician, as Pakistan’s new prime minister after the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) government headed by Imran Khan was toppled through a no-trust vote.

The previous speaker, Asad Qaiser, and his deputy, both Khan allies, had tried to block and then postpone the vote, only for Pakistan’s top court to deem their actions illegal.

Qaiser resigned on April 9, leaving the office of the speaker vacant, after failing to implement a decision by the Supreme Court to hold a no-confidence vote against Khan.

Ashraf on Saturday was administered the oath of office by Ayaz Sadiq, from Pakistan Muslim League (N). Sadiq was initially chairing the session.

The newly-elected speaker was the lone candidate for the position as no other contender had submitted nomination papers against him, who thanked his party leaders for deeming him worthy of the post.

Ashraf, who served as Pakistan’s prime minister from June 2012, to March 2013, also thanked Sharif and the lawmakers.

“I consider it my duty not to let the voice of the Opposition get suppressed,” Ashraf 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 have to always keep this in view,” he further said, adding that “consultation among institutions is the spirit of the Constitution.”

Sharif, who called Ashraf “an experienced politician” and congratulated him “from the depth” of his “heart”, is expected to name his cabinet in the coming days.

The country has been rocked by massive demonstrations since Sunday, with supporters of Khan pouring into the streets in different cities to oppose what they refer to as “imported government”.

In many cities, protesters have been seen burning the US flag and accusing the administration of US President Joe Biden of fueling the political crisis in the Muslim-majority South Asian country.

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