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KARACHI: The Pakistan Peoples Party’s Syed Murad Ali Shah comfortably won the election of the chief minister of Sindh on Friday in a one-sided contest against the candidate of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in which three key opposition parties — the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Pir Pagara’s Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and PML-Nawaz — stayed away.

Mr Shah later in the evening was sworn in as the new provincial chief executive at a ceremony held at Governor House. Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad administered the oath to Mr Shah.

Of the 168-member house, only 91 votes were cast and Mr Shah secured 88 votes, including one vote each from Aqib Jatoi of the National Peoples Party and Ameer Shirazi of the Shirazi group.

PTI’s Khurram Sher Zaman got just three votes reflecting the total strength of his party in the house.

Lawmakers belonging to the MQM and PML-N attended the session, but abstained from voting as per their earlier announcement. They remained seated in the house during and after the voting that was held by the division of the house as enshrined in the Constitution.

However, none of the 11 members of the PML-F turned up despite reports that Pir Pagara had assured Mr Shah of his party’s support during a recent meeting held in Dubai.

The PPP’s 86 members, out of 91, showed up in the Sindh Assembly session. Three of its members — Sharjeel Memon, Owais Muzaffar and Ali Nawaz Shah — are currently abroad, while Nadir Magsi was absent and Agha Siraj Durrani was in the chair. Surprisingly, Hasnain Mirza, the son of disgruntled PPP leader Dr Zulfikar Mirza, also cast his vote in favour of Mr Shah.

Outgoing chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah was the first who cast his vote followed by Hazar Khan Bijarani and Nisar Khuhro.

In his first speech as the CM-elect, Mr Shah told the house that he was clear-headed about his targets to make “Sindh safe, secure, healthy, wealthy and literate”.

He thanked PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and former president Asif Zardari and also expressed his gratitude to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, MQM chief Altaf Hussain, PML-F chief Pir Pagara, PTI chairman Imran Khan and NPP’s Murtaza Jatoi for welcoming him.

He was visibly overwhelmed by the feeling that he was occupying the same office his father, the late Abdullah Shah, had two decades ago.

Mr Shah said his father was his ideal but his leader Benazir Bhutto taught him politics and his predecessor Qaim Ali Shah, who coached him on governance, was his father’s dear friend and like a father to him.

“He [Qaim Ali Shah] deserves another standing ovation,” said Mr Shah as the house erupted into thumping of desks by all the members who then rose to their feet.

He urged people belonging to various sections of society to come forward to work for a stronger and healthy Sindh.

“Alone we may go fast but together we will go far,” he said and invited everyone: “Let’s work together for a cleaner Karachi, a greener Thar and a safer Sindh”.

About law and order in Sindh, Mr Shah said the role of all law enforcement agencies, civil and military, was truly commendable, however, much more needed to be done. He added that his focus would be to fight against anyone and anything that threatened the security of Sindh and its people.

Earlier, the house offered Fateha for philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi, qawwal Amjad Sabri, former MPA Shoaib Bokhari and father of Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Khwaja Izhar-ul-Hasan.

The oath-taking ceremony was also attended by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, former prime ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah, Faryal Talpur and others.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2016