LAHORE - Shahbaz Sharif was sworn in as Punjab’s chief minister for the record third time on Thursday after the Punjab Assembly elected him as leader of the house with a thumping majority of 300 votes in a 342-member assembly.

Later, Punjab Governor Makhdum Ahmed Mahmud administered oath to the elected chief minister at the Governor House in the presence of dignitaries, including ambassadors and diplomats from several countries. Before it, Punjab Chief Secretary Javid Aslam read out the order of appointment of the new CM on the governor’s behalf.

Though pleasantries were exchanged after the oath-taking as both the bigwigs – the governor and the CM – shook hands, but this was not more than a formality. This was, perhaps, the last important official assignment of Makhdum who would soon be leaving, making room for a PML-N man.

Shahbaz, who reached the Governor House two minutes before the scheduled time, 6pm, held a very brief one-on-one meeting with the governor and left the venue minutes after the ritual.

Traditionally, all oath-taking ceremonies are held at the historic Darbar Hall at the Governor House, but Thursday’s ceremony had to be arranged outside in the open to accommodate some two thousand people, mostly comprising the PML-N parliamentarians and party activists.

The absence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from the event was conspicuous. In fact, no member of the Sharif family except MNA Hamza Shahbaz Sharif turned up at the Governor House to attend Shahbaz Sharif’s oath-taking. The Anarkali Gate of the Governor House was opened after many years to facilitate the entry of the people into the premises. The Kashmir Road remained closed for routine traffic till the ceremony was over.

Punjab Assembly Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan, Opposition Leader Mahmoodur Rashid, nominated Balochistan CM Abdul Maalik Baloch, Senator Ishaq Dar, MNAs Kh Muhammad Asif and Zafar Iqbal Jhagra, other leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, former caretaker CM Najam Sethi, veteran journalist Dr Majid Nizami, former federal caretaker information minister Arif Nizami, other members of the caretaker cabinet, members of the national and provincial assemblies, senators, ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and other countries, Bishop of Lahore Alexander John Malik, intellectuals, journalists, government officials were amongst the notables attending the ceremony.