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Islamabad: Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was on Saturday appointed as the 22nd Speaker of the country’s National Assembly after being elected unopposed. Ashraf, 71, of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was administered the oath of office by Ayaz Sadiq of the PML-N, who was initially presiding over the session. Ashraf was the only contender for the president’s post as no other candidate had submitted nomination papers against him.

The chairman’s post fell vacant after Asad Qaiser resigned on April 9 after failing to implement the Supreme Court’s decision to move a no-confidence motion against ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan. After taking oath, Ashraf thanked his party leaders for considering him worthy of the post. He also thanked Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and members of the Legislative Assembly. He said a “new tradition” had been started in parliamentary history, adding that the Speaker was the custodian of the House. According to the Dawn newspaper report, he said the House was “incomplete” for the past three years as the former opposition had gone unheeded.

“I consider it my duty not to suppress the voice of the opposition,” he said. He said it should be heard and respected. He said, “There is a saying in English that majority has its way, but the opposition should have its say. We have to keep this in mind at all times,” he said, adding that “consultation between institutions is the spirit of the Constitution.” Congratulating the newly elected Speaker, Prime Minister Sharif expressed hope that Ashraf would bury what happened in the Assembly in the last four years.

The Prime Minister said, “You are a seasoned politician. I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart. You have also served the nation as the Prime Minister.” Ashraf, who previously served as the Prime Minister of Pakistan from June 22, 2012 to March 16, 2013, and was elected after being given the position of a speaker to the Pakistan People’s Party – a key partner of the current coalition government. Meanwhile, Qasim Khan Suri resigned as the deputy speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly on Saturday, less than an hour before a session of the House where a no-confidence motion against him in favor of the previous government led by Khan. Voting was to take place.

Suri of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party had been serving as the acting president since the resignation of the president, Asad Qaiser. Sharing a copy of his resignation on Twitter, Suri said his move reflects his association with his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and his vision of democracy. The 53-year-old politician tweeted, “We will never compromise on the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan. We will fight for the interests and freedom of the country. We will go to any extent to protect Pakistan.”

According to a Geo TV report, the no-confidence motion has no significance after Suri’s resignation, while the newly-elected Speaker will decide whether to accept the resignation or not. Suri has faced severe criticism in recent days over his decision to reject the no-confidence motion against former prime minister Khan and adjourn the session scheduled for the election of the NA president from April 16 to April 22. Just before the election of Shahbaz Sharif as the new Prime Minister of Pakistan on 11 April, MPs from Khan’s party decided to resign from the National Assembly.

Khan’s PTI on Thursday announced that Suri had accepted the resignations of 123 MPs and the National Assembly (NA) Secretariat had also issued a notification on the issue. The PPP and PML-N alleged that Suri pressured the National Assembly Secretariat to accept the resignation.

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