LAHORE  -   PTI’s Sardar Usman Buzdar was elected as Punjab’s 20th chief minister on Sunday amid rumpus created by the Opposition which termed his election an outcome of rigged mandate and called him an assassin.

The new chief minister will take oath of his office on Monday (today) at the Governor House. With the election of the new chief minister, the PML-N’s 10-year rule in Punjab has come to an end.

Usman Buzdar got 186 votes as against 159 of Hamza Shehbaz Sharif. PPP abstained from the voting process while two independent MPAs, Syeda Maimnat Mohsin (Jugnu Mohsin) and Ahmad Ali Oulak voted for the PTI candidate. Buzdar also got nine votes from the PML-Q.

Had the chief minister-elect obtained one vote less than his present count, the house would have been required to repeat the exercise through a second count to get the simple majority of the members present there. The election took place through 'division of the house' system, as supporters of the two candidates were directed to gather either on left or right sides of Assembly chambers, and make an exit after recording their name in the member’s roll placed at the doors on either side. 

A controversy shrouds Buzdar's election as chief minister of the biggest province following reports which surfaced in the social media about his alleged involvement in a murder case registered in 1998. It involved the death of six members in a clash during local body polls held that year. The victims belonged to the Chakrani tribe, a sub-clan of the Buzdar tribe.

Though the case was under trial in an anti-terrorism court, the two parties in the meanwhile reached a settlement brokered by a local jirga through payment of compensation to the heirs amounting to Rs7.5 million.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on the other hand was quick to defend his nominee on Saturday saying that he had picked Buzdar after due diligence over the past two weeks and found him an honest man.

As soon as the speaker pronounced Usman Buzdar as the chief minister-elect, the opposition members gathered around his dice and created rumpus with full-throated sloganeering.

For almost 15 minutes, they kept chanting the slogan: “Qatil Wazir-e-Aala Na Manzoor (We don’t accept a murderer chief minister). It was a reference to a 20-year old murder case registered against Usman Buzdar and others though it was disposed of later after mutual settlement.

Led by Hamza Shehbaz Sharif and Khawaja Saad Rafique, the PML-N lawmakers also raised slogans against Speaker Parvez Elahi and Prime Minister Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi. Opposition members who wore black bands around their arms even stood on the tables meant for the speaker’s staff placed just below his seat. The speaker, however, kept his cool and allowed them to register their protest through sloganeering for over 15 minutes. The treasury benches also did not interfere.

Quite astonishingly, the opposition members settled down on their seats as the speaker asked them to go back to their benches. Khawaja Saad Rafique also led them back to the opposition benches. 

Earlier, just before start of the voting process for election of the new chief minister, the treasury members made a human shield around speaker’s dais in anticipation of any rowdy scene by the opposition. The opposition members, however, objected to the move terming it uncalled for. Khawaja Saad Rafique also assured the speaker they had no plans to harm him.

Nonetheless, Parvez Elahi attributed this to lack of space in the house. He also took jibes at the opposition saying that had the new assembly building been functional by this time, this situation would not have arisen.

Immediately after his election, Buzdar was briefed by his colleagues on what to say and what not to say in his maiden speech in the assembly. As the chief minister-elect was required to speak extempore without any help from the written notes, he was also advised by aides to keep his speech short most probably to avoid the possible fumble.

Even the speaker asked the chief minister-elect to make a brief address in contravention of the parliamentary traditions.

Unlike the National Assembly where the speeches of the leader of the house and the opposition leader were marred by sloganeering, it did not happen in the Punjab Assembly. Before start of the speeches, Parvez Elahi sought assurance from the treasury and the opposition that neither side would interrupt the speeches by the chief minister-elect and the opposition leader. And everything went as agreed upon between the two sides. There was no sloganeering or noise from the either side during the speeches.    

Addressing the house, the chief minister-elect vowed to break the status quo through good governance and police reforms. He also pledged to end corruption [from government departments].He said he would replicate the KP model of police reforms in Punjab, besides revamping the local bodies system. He said Punjab was facing numerous challenges and he would try to tackle them keeping in view the vision of Prime Minister Imran. He also thanked the PM for nominating him as Punjab’s chief minister. Buzdar said he would develop the under-developed areas while sustaining the current level of development in the developed areas.

He said his only merit to win nomination for the coveted slot was that he belonged to an under-developed Tehsil (Taunsa) of southern Punjab.

“I am better placed to understand the problems faced by people in the under-developed regions since I belong to those areas. That is my merit,” he said.

He said all MPAs would feel empowered in their respective constituencies and should consider themselves a chief minister. He promised to bring a best team to ensure good governance in the province. He said he would accept and consider good suggestions coming from the opposition benches to improve governance.

Responding to Usman Buzdar’s speech, Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz appreciated the democratic transition [from the PML-N government to the PTI government] but observed that PTI government’s mandate was marred by rigging. He also congratulated the chief minister-elect on assuming the new office. 

He lamented that despite having extraordinary powers, the Election Commission of Pakistan had failed to ensure transparency in polls. The election body, he said, was granted Rs21 billion out of taxpayers' money, but the RTS system became dysfunctional after 11 pm. He termed it an attack on democracy.

Hamza claimed that as many as 16,800 of PML-N workers were booked in various cases a day ahead of the elections while its polling agents were expelled from the polling stations after 6 pm.  He also mentioned that ballot papers were found on garbage and from the gutters after the elections.

Talking about the alleged rigging, Hamza said that number of rejected votes in 36 constituencies was more than the margin of victory of the PTI candidates.

He said he had no love lost for power as his family had been in power for many years. He said he wanted the country to become a prosperous state dreamed by the Quaid-i-Azam.

Interestingly, Hamza was not present in the House when the Speaker called out his name to respond to the speech made by the chief minister-elect. In his absence, Khawaja Saad Rafique took floor on his own to make a speech on his behalf. But the Speaker stopped him by saying: “Are you Hamza Shehbaz Sharif?

Also, the House passed a unanimous resolution calling for strict action against a Holland politician for encouraging promotion of profane sketches. The resolution stressed upon the federal government to end diplomatic relations with Holland by also persuading all the Muslim countries to do the same.

 

 

 

MUBASHIR HASSAN