In farewell address at NA, PM Shehbaz terms tenure ‘most difficult test of life’

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In his farewell speech at the National Assembly (NA) on Wednesday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif termed his 16-month-long tenure as the country’s chief executive the “most difficult test of my life”.

“I never had to go through such a difficult test before in my 38-year-long [political] career as the country was mired in a severe economic crisis, oil prices remained high and there was political chaos,” he said.

The prime minister, who had earlier announced that the NA would be dissolved on August 9 (today), told the lawmakers that he would be sending the summary for the dissolution of the assembly to the president tonight.

Moreover, he said he would meet Leader of the Opposition Raja Riaz tomorrow to discuss the candidates for the interim PM.

“Tomorrow will be our first meeting, and as per the Constitution, we will have three days to reach a decision.”

He began and ended his speech by thanking lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for electing him as the PM, showing confidence in him and supporting him throughout his tenure at the helm.

The government faced several challenges and difficulties during its 16-month-long brief tenure, he said, adding, “We had to bear the burden of the previous government’s failure and negligence.”

The premier painted a bleak picture of the aftermath of what he termed the previous government’s failures.

He maintained that his government did “not send any political rival to jail or bothered them unfairly. This was never our practice.”

If a leader of a party — a reference to PTI Chairman Imran Khan — was put behind bars today, “we are not happy about it”, he said. “And if some people have distributed sweets [to celebrate the punishment], it is not right. It is not a good tradition.”

The premier also condemned the May 9 episode when protests had erupted across the country following Imran’s arrest in a graft case. While the protests were under way, several properties, including military installations, were vandalised.

“May 9 will be remembered as a black day,” PM Shehbaz said, paying tributes to the armed forces and its soldiers for their sacrifices. “It was a rebellion against the army, the state and [army chief] Gen Asim Munir,” he added.

PM Shehbaz urged the house to adopt a resolution and pledge that “no one will be allowed to commit such acts against the state or army of Pakistan ever again”.

He also recalled the sacrifices rendered in the fight against terrorism. “Eight thousand Pakistanis lost their lives and … the world acknowledges these great sacrifices. It always uses words of praise for our sacrifices and those of our army”.

He further mentioned the Special Investment Facilitation Council as one of the achievements of his government and expressed the hope that the interim government work further on its progress.

Speaking on Balochistan, he said the province’s lagged in comparison to that of other provinces.

“The people of Balochistan have some other complaints as well. Their demands are fair … During my 16 months in the government, I tried my best to fulfil their fair demands,” he said, stressing that Balochistan’s issues needed to be addressed and resolved with sincerity.

“We will work together to try and resolve the remaining issues of Balochistan, but all of us need to show some patience and tolerance.

“Pakistan cannot grow without Balochistan,” he said.

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