A new prime minister

Published: August 2, 2017
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New Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. PHOTO: REUTERS

New Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. PHOTO: REUTERS

New Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. PHOTO: REUTERS

At around 5.15pm on August 1st 2017 the National Assembly elected Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the new prime minister of Pakistan. Abbasi won the election by securing 221 votes, Naveed Qamar got 47 votes, 33 for Sheikh Rashid and Sahibzada Tariqullah secured four votes. An entirely predictable landslide victory considering the size of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) majority in Parliament. He was the nomination of the PML-N and the election was necessitated by the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif in the wake of the Panama Papers affair. The chamber was packed and noisy but reasonable order was maintained, and another step along the uneven democratic road was taken. In purely procedural terms all was by the book — the Second Schedule of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007 — and the man who was formerly petroleum minister made the maiden speech of what is likely to be a short tenure of the post.

It has taken four days since the departure of Nawaz Sharif to bring the government to order. There are reports that the cabinet of PM Abbasi is likely to remain much the same, and it is a given that his strings are going to be pulled from behind the scenes by the senior Sharif brother whilst the decks are cleared for the accession of the junior Sharif brother to the prime ministership; a period of around 45 days.

Whilst a sheaf of criticisms and questions surround the entire Panama Papers matter and the composition and conduct of the Joint Investigation Team, the transition has been seamless and at least on the surface relatively painless. Due process has been observed and the various actors and parties have for the most part acted like adults — there have been exceptions — and the country moves on. Whether democracy in the broader sense has moved on is questionable. The country is likely to remain in the hands of the Sharif family for several years to come barring accidents, and there is little prospect of a change in power structures. But for now, a kind of equilibrium.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2017.

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