Home Featured Ex-PML-N leaders Miftah Ismail, Shahid Khaqan launch new party Awaam Pakistan

Ex-PML-N leaders Miftah Ismail, Shahid Khaqan launch new party Awaam Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD: Former PML-N leaders Miftah Ismail and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Saturday formally launched a new party named Awaam Pakistan, declaring it “open for all” to join.

The leaders had long floated the idea of a new political entity to take the country out of perennial crises. Last month, a glimpse of Awaam Pakistan appeared on the country’s political horizon after a video posted on the X account of the party was shared with the tagline ‘Awaam Pakistan: Badlein ge nizam’ (People of Pakistan: We will change the system).

The video, featuring a string of despondent citizens asking questions about multiple national issues, was reshared by both Ismail and Abbasi.

Today, the party was formally launched at a ceremony in Islamabad.

The former finance minister said the vision of his party was to provide Pakistanis with equal economic opportunities. He stated that Awaam Pakistan would not follow “hereditary politics” or the concept of a “messiah”.

“If you believe that we have the right to move forward […] then join us, we will stand with you and rebuild Pakistan,” Ismail said.

“No senior party member will serve more than two terms,” he said. “Nor will their children come and take their position. We are not going to have dynasties or cults of personality here, we will operate on merit.”

He rued how Pakistan has plummeted behind most other countries in nearly every sector.

“There was a time not long ago when Pakistan was the richest country in South Asia, now we are behind everyone else,” he said, highlighting that Pakistan was even behind Nepal in human development.

“The most children out of school in the world are in Pakistan, and not in bigger countries like China,” he added. “Our government spends between Rs1.5 trillion and Rs2tr on education, and despite that, we’re still behind Sudan, Yemen, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and other states.”

Ismail said that 100 million Pakistanis were living under the poverty line. “Their children sleep starving. This is where our politicians have brought us,” he lamented.

He said that 40 per cent of Pakistanis suffer from stunted physical and mental development due to malnutrition. “If these children have no future then what future does the country have? Can this country move forward like this?

“We have been left behind because we are a predatory state,” Ismail said. “To our politicians, we are not citizens, we’re prey.”

He said that the recently passed budget was formulated only for politicians’ benefit. “Taxes have been doubled for those who make between Rs75,000 and Rs100,000. Imagine how much they have to pay in addition to utilities, fees and medical bills.”

Ismail said his party’s first priority would be to give Pakistanis opportunities to move forward. “If you believe that Pakistanis have the right to move forward and have opportunities then join us, we will stand with you and bring Pakistan up.”

Those sworn to defend Constitution are breaking it: Abbasi

Abbasi also addressed the ceremony and regretted that politics has become “more about keeping seats than serving the public”.

“It is upsetting that we worry about our seats more than our country,” he said. “What moral authority do they have to resolve our problems?”

However, he expressed hope that the public “wish to be part of something better” and added that “the first step in a difficult journey has been taken”.

He emphasised that Awaam Pakistan was an “unconventional party” and that he was presenting an idea as opposed to a traditional, structured political party.

“Anyone can take a group of electables, establish some internal structure and call themselves a political party,” he said. “We have not invited anybody in yet, we’ve simply presented an idea. When we’re ready, we’ll reach out and begin talking to people.

“Electables are a part of politics, but not all electables are recognisable,” Abbasi continued. “To be in Awaam Pakistan, you need ability and good reputation. If you have neither, you cannot be a part of this party.”

The ex-PM stated that, unlike other parties, his brainchild would not be looking for just anyone as a member.

“We want people who will contribute something to the country, not take from it,” he said. “Only those who contribute or give can help the country move forward.”

Regarding the new party’s ideology, Abbasi said he answered that question by asking: “What’s your ideology?”

“The concept of left and right has died in Pakistan,” he said. “Our ideology is helping the people of Pakistan and taking responsibility for them. We need to uplift the country. If we don’t, who will? Awaam Pakistan is the name of that idea.”

Echoing Miftah’s remarks, Abbasi said the country cannot be run without adherence to the Constitution and the law. “This party is firmly rooted in Pakistan’s Constitution and parliamentary democracy, there is no other path,” he said. “It is upsetting that 70 years have passed and we still don’t respect the Constitution.

“The tragedy is that those sworn to defend the Constitution are breaking it every day. How can a country of 240m people run like this?”

He said that within three to four weeks, the party will release a mission statement outlining its goals and policies. “We will present a solution to the country’s problems in this statement, to prove that we aren’t just all talk,” Abbasi said.

Abbasi said that he gets asked a lot whether he has the permission of the establishment to launch the new party. “This is the point we’ve arrived at. In this country, the common man believes that nothing can happen without the establishment’s say-so.

“They think that the parties can’t do anything, and that is because the establishment has made these parties,” he said.

The ex-PM slammed the political class, stating, “Politicians now love to talk about accountability. Everyone says they will hold people accountable, but these are the same people who tax others and not pay taxes themselves.”

He said that parliamentarians need to explain how they can tax milk whilst evading taxes themselves as he slammed the systems of revenue collection, governance and policing, calling them “useless”.

“The people on this stage can provide better solutions than our current politicians,” Abbasi said to a round of applause.

Apart from Ismail and Abbasi, former PML-N leader and KP governor Mehtab Abbasi and former PM’s aide Zafar Mirza also addressed the event.