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May 9 riots rebellion against state, Shehbaz says in farewell NA address

PM Shehbaz shrugs off talks of delays in polls as mere ‘speculations’ as NA term nears end

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday termed that the events following the arrest of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan on May 9 in connection with a corruption case were a “rebellion” against the state, the armed forces and the army leadership.

In a farewell address to the National Assembly, the premier expressed outrage over the disrespectful acts targeting the memorials of martyrs and ghazis on May 9.

“This day will forever be remembered as a day of mourning till the end of times. The events of May 9 mark a rebellion against the state, with dissent manifesting against not only the nation but also the armed forces, under the leadership of General Syed Asim Munir,” he added.

Talking about the recent surge of terrorism across the country, PM Shehbaz lashed out at the decision taken by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.

“The former prime minister invited them (terrorists) to come and settle in Pakistan. The move backfired as terrorism resurfaced, wreaking havoc in Swat and beyond,” he added.

Shehbaz said that the law enforcement agencies are struggling to contain the ensuing turmoil, and terrorist attacks have once again become widespread, reversing the efforts for hard-earned peace that followed the sacrifices of numerous martyrs.

The prime minister said that he will move the summary to dissolve the National Assembly to President Arif Alvi tonight. He emphasised the necessity of passing a resolution condemning the May 9 conspiracy to send a strong message that the nation and its military stand united against any such audacious attempts.

Speaking further, Shehbaz asserted that his government had neither unjustly imprisoned political opponents nor pressured the NAB to do so.

He added that if a leader of a political party was in hot waters, he was facing the consequences of his own action. “Imran Niazi sacrificed the country for his own interests.”

Shehbaz said that imprisonment of the former prime minister was not a cause for celebration, dismissing claims that sweets were distributed by his party when the PTI chief was arrested.

“One should not curse even his enemies. There is no question of distributing sweets [by my party members]. If someone has done so, it is not a good tradition,” he concluded.

Following his address, PM Shehbaz posed for a picture with the members of the National Assembly.

NA dissolution summary

Earlier in the day, PM Shehbaz said he will send a summary to President Alvi seeking the dissolution of the National Assembly. In an interview with a private news channel, he said as per law, if the president did not take up the summary within 48 hours, it would stand implemented and the NA would stand dissolved.

Regarding the caretaker set-up, the PM said consultations are underway with coalition parties to agree on a neutral interim prime minister, who would be acceptable to the people.

He added that the decision would be a collective one and after finalising the names, he would hold the first meeting with Opposition Leader Raja Riaz.

PM Shehbaz also said all political parties unanimously want elections as early as possible and dismissed talks of a possible delay in polls as mere speculations.

He stressed the need for a balanced and inclusive approach to civil-military relations and called for all national institutions to cooperate with each other, albeit within their constitutional limits.

The confirmation of the decision to dissolve the NA from the premier means that the government’s term would be cut short prematurely, paving the way for a caretaker setup to take up the reins after consultations with the opposition leader.

Once the assembly is dissolved, PM Shehbaz and opposition leader Raja Riaz will conduct final discussions to determine the caretaker prime minister.

The prime minister has also called on the parliamentary leaders of the coalition parties for a final consultation on the interim setup. However, sources indicate that the prime minister, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, former president Asif Ali Zardari, and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman have already concluded their consultations.

In parallel, the opposition leader has finalised three names after consultation. The prime minister and the opposition leader are expected to reach an agreement on one of these three names.

Earlier this week, however, the Council of Common Interest (CCI) unanimously approved the results of the 7th population and housing census, concluding that the population of Pakistan has reached 241.49 million with a growth rate of 2.55% as reported by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).

The CCI’s 50th meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and attended by chief ministers of all provinces, three federal ministers and key leaders of the allied parties invited on special invitation.

The CCI decision is likely to result in a delay in general elections slated for November this year if the assemblies are dissolved on August 9, three days shy of their term completion. A new census means a new delimitation of constituencies, which, according to some experts, may take at least four months.

Concerning still is the fact that based on recent statements made by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif there is a possibility that the next general elections may face delays.

‘Immense challenges, unforeseen in our history’

Shehbaz later took to Twitter to convey his gratitude to the federal cabinet for its cooperation and support during his term in office, which he described as a challenging time, unforeseen in the country’s history.

“In the special cabinet meeting today, I thanked my cabinet colleagues for their cooperation and support. I was deeply humbled by their kind words for my person. The last 16 months was a time of immense challenges, unforeseen in our history.”

A “treacherous landscape” was navigated using “collective wisdom” possible by the “coming together of Pakistan’s political forces for a national agenda,” he said.

According to Shehbaz, Pakistan is better off now in August 2023 as compared to where it was in April 2022, when former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan was removed from office through a vote of no confidence.

“Our long-term challenges still remain but the way forward has clearly been identified and actions initiated in that direction,” said Shehbaz.

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