Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif raises Kashmir issue in first parliament speech after taking oath

Sharif says ‘National Assembly should pass resolution for freedom of Kashmiris and Palestinians’

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Monday 04 March 2024 12:09 GMT
Related: Protest in parliament as Shehbaz Sharif elected prime minister of Pakistan

Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday raised Kashmir in his maiden speech at parliament after taking oath as Pakistan's prime minister for the second time.

Mr Sharif was voted in by Pakistan’s National Assembly to return as prime minister, ending almost a month-long political deadlock following the 8 February general elections. The elections were marred by allegations of vote rigging.

In his speech, Mr Sharif equated the federal Indian territory of Kashmir with Gaza and the occupied West Bank, calling for a resolution to “free both regions”.

"Let's all come together ... and the National Assembly should pass a resolution for freedom of Kashmiris and Palestinians," he said, according to news agency PTI.

India and Pakistan both administer a portion of the Himalayan region of Kashmir and claim it in its entirety in a dispute that dates back to the partition of India after the end of British rule.

However, he pledged to improve ties with Pakistan's neighbours, without naming any particular country. "We will keep ties with neighbours on the basis of equality," he told parliament.

Pakistani leaders' remarks on Kashmir routinely evoke condemnation from India. New Delhi has not immediately responded to Mr Sharif's statement. India considers the Himalayan territory crucial to its territorial integrity.

On Sunday, Mr Sharif secured 201 votes from MPs, defeating his rival Omar Ayub Khan who stood as the candidate of choice for MPs loyal to Imran Khan, securing 92 votes. Mr Ayub is also the grandson of Pakistan’s first military dictator.

Supporters of convicted former prime minister Imran Khan attend the KPK provincial assembly oath taking session of newly elected members, in Peshawar, Pakistan (EPA)

Mr Ayub was backed by Mr Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI, whose candidates could not get enough seats to form a government on their own. The PTI refused to hold talks with its rivals to form a coalition.

Mr Sharif held the office of prime minister from April 2022 to August 2023, and is the younger brother of three-time premier Nawaz Sharif.

Mr Khan is currently serving prison terms in multiple cases and has been barred from seeking or holding office. Mr Sharif replaced him as prime minister after his ouster in a no-confidence vote in parliament in April 2022.

Mr Sharif in his speech also said: "We were subjected to political victimization in the past but never took any revenge." Without naming Mr Khan, he said the previous ruler jailed many political rivals, including himself and his ally Asif Ali Zardari.

He also accused Mr Khan's supporters of attacking military installations while protesting his ouster in 2022, adding that now parliament and the courts would decide whether those involved in attacking the military installations deserved a pardon.

Holding portraits of MrKhan, some lawmakers stood in front of Mr Sharif when he began his speech, shouting "vote thief" and "shame".

Mr Sharif denounced their actions, saying they were causing chaos in parliament. He also said they should present their evidence of vote rigging to the relevant authorities.

He then addressed the opposition saying, "I am offering you reconciliation”.

“Let us sit together to work for the betterment of Pakistan,” he added amid the din.

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