Islamabad: Pakistan's newly-elected Parliament on Wednesday voted an ally of Prime Minister-in-waiting Imran Khan as the Speaker of its lower house, kicking off the process of transition and handing over powers to the new government.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's (PTI) Asad Qaiser was sworn in as the Speaker of the National Assembly, Parliament's lower house, Dawn news reported.
Qaiser defeated Pakistan Peoples Party's (PPP) stalwart Syed Khursheed Shah, who was fielded by the joint opposition alliance. The election was held through secret ballot.
Qaiser, the former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly speaker, received 176 votes against Shah's 146. Eight votes were rejected. Outgoing Speaker Ayaz Sadiq administered the oath to Qaiser among loud chants of "vote ko izzat do" (give value to the votes) by opposition lawmakers, the report said.
The new Speaker will oversee the election of his deputy.
After the announcement, Qaiser shook hands with opposition leaders seated in the front row. He will supervise the election process of the prime minister.
The PTI has fielded Qasim Suri for the post of Deputy Speaker while the joint opposition has nominated Asad Rehman of Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA).
Strict security measures were put in place to avoid any untoward incident during the proceedings.
On Monday, 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 saw Speaker Sadiq administer the oath to the leaders in the 342-member house, 19 days after Khan-led 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, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari also took oath.
Earlier, PTI senior vice president Shah Mahmood Qureshi told media that their candidates would easily win the majority votes, saying 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.
The PTI emerged as the single largest party with 116 seats in 25 July 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 18 August 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.
Updated Date: Aug 16, 2018 07:26 AM