LAHORE: A day after the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf named him for the office of Punjab chief minister, controversy surrounded Sardar Usman Ahmed Khan Buzdar’s nomination after reports emerged that he was involved in a 20-year-old murder case but got himself exonerated from charges after striking a deal with victims’ families and paying them Rs7.5 million blood money (diyat).

Media reports said in 1998 Mr Buzdar along with his father and others was booked in a murder case and later a court found him guilty of planning an election-related attack in which six people were shot dead.

But Prime Minister Imran Khan remained unimpressed with such reports and threw his weight behind his nominee when he tweeted: “I want to make it clear I stand by our nominee Usman Buzdar for CM Punjab. I have done my due diligence over the past 2 weeks & have found him to be an honest man. He has integrity & stands by my vision & ideology of Naya Pakistan.”

Usman Buzdar and Hamza Shahbaz file nomination papers; election for Punjab’s top post today

The newly-elected PM also said that Mr Buzdar had come from one of the most backward areas of Punjab — the tribal area of Dera Ghazi Khan division. “It is an area that has no electricity, water or a doctor for over 200,000 people. The candidate understands the problems of the people of neglected areas and will strive to ensure their uplift as CM.”

Buzdar denies allegations

Also, Mr Buzdar himself vehemently denied any corruption or other cases against him.

Speaking to reporters outside the Punjab Assembly building after filing his nomination papers for the province’s top slot on Saturday, he vowed to run the affairs of the province in line with Mr Khan’s vision of reforming governance, eliminating corruption and alleviating poverty while carrying support of the treasury as well as the opposition in the province.

“There are big challenges in Punjab and I take the challenge,” he said.

Mr Buzdar said he would translate Imran Khan’s vision of uplifting the have-nots and backward areas, besides sustaining development in developed areas of Punjab through his hard work. “All the promises made by Imran Khan will be fulfilled to showcase a visible ‘change’ in the province,” he asserted.

Mr Buzdar parried a question about the creation of “South Punjab” province as he was reminded that he himself was part of the Junoobi Punjab Sooba Mahaz (JPSM) and the demand was endorsed by Imran Khan himself. He simply replied: “I will take everybody along. Please wait for a while.”

Earlier, in a video message, Mr Buzdar said that “South Punjab” province was on Imran Khan’s agenda and immediately added that a sub-civil secretariat would be established in southern part of the province so that people’s problems could be resolved locally.

For being a resident of the neglected area even in south Punjab, he said, there was a much need to focus on the plight of people and mitigate their sense of deprivation in the neglected south Punjab. He vowed to come up to the expectations of his party leader and perform better than any former chief minister in the province.

Criticising the former chief minister for not giving time to MNAs and MPAs, Mr Buzdar said he would meet lawmakers in his office on a daily basis.

In the afternoon, Mr Buzdar called on Punjab governor-designate Chaudhry Sarwar and discussed with the latter matters and strategy pertaining to the chief minister’s election.

Hamza Shahbaz’s papers

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz candidate Hamza Shahbaz’s nomination papers were also filed by former excise minister and MPA Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman.

Later talking to the media, Mr Rehman said that a number of PTI MPAs were old guards of the PML-N and still in contact, claiming that they would vote for Hamza Shahbaz.

He said the PML-N had identified a few of 12 party legislators who had violated party discipline and voted for Pervaiz Elahi in the election for the post of speaker. “Following our protest, those 12 votes returned to the party’s deputy speaker candidate within a matter of two hours.”

Fearing that some PML-N MPAs may again vote for the PTI candidate in the election for the post of chief minister, Mr Rehman warned: “If any PML-N legislator votes for PTI candidate on Sunday (today), the party will not only hold those MPAs in the house but also in their constituencies.”

PPP to abstain from voting today

PPP parliamentary party leader in the Punjab Assembly Hasan Murtaza said his party members would abstain from voting during the election for the post of chief minister.

“We will remain present in the house but not cast vote as the PPP MNAs did in the National Assembly during prime minister’s election,” he said.

Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervaiz Elahi scrutinised the nomination papers of candidates for the post of chief minister and found them in order.

The chief minister’s election between the two candidates will be held in the Punjab Assembly on Sunday (today).

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2018

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