Pak's ex-PM Ashraf takes oath as National Assembly Speaker

Islamabad: Pakistan's former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Saturday took oath as the 22nd speaker of the National Assembly after he was elected unopposed.

The office of the speaker had fallen vacant after Asad Qaiser of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party resigned on April 9 after failing to conduct a vote of no-confidence as directed by the Supreme Court. Asharf, 71, a senior leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), in his brief address after taking charge of the house promised to run according to democratic norms and rules. He was Pakistan's 19th prime minister from June 2012 to March 2013.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who was present in the house, congratulated him by saying that he was elected with the complete consensus of the house. "You are an eminent parliamentarian and have also served as the prime minister," he said. The house was also set to vote on the no-confidence motion against deputy speaker Qasim Khan Suri but he resigned before the matter was taken up.

The assembly passed two resolutions to recognise the services of late philanthropist Bilquis Edhi and to condemn the attack on Punjab Assembly Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari by lawmakers in Lahore. Ashraf also decided that all 123 lawmakers of the PTI, who had resigned en masse last week, should meet him to verify if the resignations were submitted by free will. The session was later adjourned till noon on April 18.

Ashraf was elected after the office of the speaker was given to the PPP — the leading partner of the current coalition government. Parliament was supposed to elect a deputy speaker but now it has been postponed until the next session. Shahida Akhtar Ali of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, another coalition partner, is said to be frontrunners. The Dawn newspaper reported that the ruling alliance has agreed to replace Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani with PPP's Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, who is also a former prime minister.

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