By Our Staff Reporter
LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) Usman Buzdar was on Sunday elected as Chief Minister Punjab with the support of 186 MPAs, compared to the 159 backing PML-N’s Hamza Shahbaz Sharif.
Three hundred and forty-five of the total 354 MPAs of the Punjab Assembly had exercised their right to elect a Leader of the House.
PPP lawmakers did not cast their votes in the election. At least five out of their seven members in the assembly left the building without casting their votes.
One member opted to remain in the assembly, but did not cast his vote when the process began.
The election was held under the ‘division of the house’ system, with supporters of each candidate directed to different chambers and a headcount following the ‘division’. PML-N MPAs had worn black armbands in protest against alleged rigging in the July 25 election. They also registered their protest by chanting slogans.
‘First priority to bring good governance’
Buzdar, in his first address to the Punjab Assembly after his election, said those questioning the merit of his nomination should understand that his belonging to one of the poorest areas of Punjab qualifies him for the post.
“I understand the problems faced by people in those regions because I belong there. That is my merit,” the newly-elected CM said in response to criticism of his capability to lead the house.
Discussing his agenda for the province, Buzdar said: “Our first priority is to bring good governance to Punjab. We will then move on to strengthening our institutions.”
He added: “I am promising today that we will break the status quo. All our MPAs will be empowered and all of them will act like chief ministers in their own areas.”
Buzdar had been expected to win the election as the PTI had shown its strength in elections for the post of Speaker and Deputy Speaker in the assembly.
‘Govt’s mandate marred by rigging’ The defeated candidate, Hamza Shahbaz, while appreciating the democratic transition from the PML-N government to the PTI government, said, “with a heavy heart, that the government’s mandate is marred by rigging”.
“The Election Commission of Pakistan was extraordinarily empowered. It had enormous powers. The Rs21 billion spent on the election was taxpayers’ money. The Results Transmission System (RTS) did not go down. Actually, it was an ambush on democracy,” he alleged.
Shahbaz also claimed that the party had been discriminated against. He claimed that 16,800 of its workers were booked in various cases in the lead up to the election.
He also alleged that ballot papers were “being found in gutters” and the party’s political agents were “locked up inside polling stations” on election day.
The PML-N has in the past also claimed that its polling agents were thrown out from polling stations on election day.
“More votes were rejected than [the margin of] defeat in more than 36 constituencies,” he stated.
Noting that the Sharif family had already enjoyed the office of prime minister thrice, he said “I do not want to rule Punjab today, but I do want Pakistan to become a prosperous country as was dreamed by the Quaid-i-Azam,” he concluded.
With Buzdar’s election as CM, Seraiki nationalists see new hope for South Punjab province
Seraiki nationalists and intelligentsia welcomed the election of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) Usman Buzdar as Punjab Chief Minister on Sunday, saying that it boded well for the future of development under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as well as the creation of a new Seraiki/South Punjab province.
Seraiki nationalist Ashiq Buzdar of Rajanpur’s Mehraywala said Usman Buzdar had a deep understanding of the problems native to Seraiki-speaking and tribal areas.
“He is a native and understands the importance of issues, including the demand for a Seraiki province,” Ashiq said.
He claimed that newly-elected Punjab Assembly Speaker, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, had been given a mandate to form a forward bloc in the PML-N and lobby for the establishment of a new province, and that he had also been tasked with the responsibility of acquiring a two-thirds majority in the Punjab Assembly (which is mandatory to establish a new province) by those who supported his election for this purpose.
He explained that the emergence of a forward bloc within the PML-N would help towards making a Seraiki province a reality during Buzdar’s tenure.
Pakistan Seraiki Party’s Mehmood Nizami recalled that the previous Punjab Assembly had already passed a resolution to create two new provinces out of Punjab.
He predicted that the PPP would extend its support to the PTI for creation of a new province, while the PML-N would support the cause to appease South Punjab and woo it away from its “anti PML-N attitude”.
PPP’s Dera Ghazi Khan Cultural Wing General Secretary Dr Naveed said that the election of Buzdar as CM would be beneficial to development taking place under CPEC, since the Buzdar tribe has ties to both Punjab and Balochistan.
Dr Naveed was of the opinion that a Balochi and Seraiki-speaking Punjab CM would be able to address public meetings in Balochistan and create trust and confidence among the people of Balochistan as well as the Seraiki people.
Senior journalist and Seraiki nationalist Ashraf Khan Buzdar said that the establishment of a Seraiki province should be a priority of the chief minister and his party, but noted that to achieve a two-thirds majority, the PTI would have to muster the support of the PPP and PML-N, otherwise it would be impossible to establish a new province.
District Council Vice Chairman Javed Iqbal Qaisrani said that people of the area supported Buzdar and had high expectations from him regarding the settlement of problems of the area.
Responding to a query, Qaisrani said that the establishment of a Seraiki province was a difficult task without a two-thirds majority in the national and relevant provincial assembly, but he claimed with confidence that Taunsa Sharif tehsil would soon emerge as a district.
Mushtaq Gadi of Seraiki Lok Sanjh said that the creation of a new province in Punjab is an imperative of state-building in Pakistan, and would positively contribute to solving some crucial structural problems.
The main benefits, he said, included a balanced federation, economic growth, better governance and redressal of regional deprivation. The Seraiki belt has recently acquired new significance in terms of the changing geo-economic and geo-political situation in the wake of CPEC and Usman Buzdar’s election as Punjab CM.
He maintained that any further denial or delay in according it a provincial status would merely complicate the problem.