Punjab Assembly elects PTI's Usman Buzdar as chief minister

Published August 19, 2018
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar addressing the Punjab Assembly — DawnNewsTV
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar addressing the Punjab Assembly — DawnNewsTV

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's (PTI) Usman Buzdar was on Sunday elected 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.

Opposition lawmakers chant slogans in the Punjab Assembly.— DawnNewsTV

'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 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.

Controversy around PTI's Buzdar

Buzdar's nomination had turned controversial when reports surfaced that he had allegedly been involved in a murder case in 1998.

The case had been filed after a clash broke out during local body polls, leaving six members of the Chakarani tribe ─ a sub-clan of the Buzdar tribe ─ dead.

Although the case was sent to an anti-terrorism court, a jirga had brokered a settlement between the affected parties whereby compensation to the tune of Rs7.5 million was paid to the heirs of the deceased.

As these reports were picked up by the media, PTI Chairman Imran Khan was quick to defend Buzdar, saying that he had handpicked the CM nominee after "due diligence over the past two weeks" and "found him to be an honest man".

He had stressed that Buzdar belonged to a under-developed area of Punjab, where there is "no water, electricity or hospital".

Buzdar, he said, is "well acquainted with how people live in those areas, and secondly, he is aware of how the poor lead their lives. When he will assume the office of the chief minister he will know the nature of the plight that faces the underprivileged people of Pakistan."

PTI Spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry had also defended Buzdar, saying the case against him had been politically motivated.

Speaker, deputy speaker polls dominated by PTI

On Thursday, PTI-backed PML-Q leader Elahi had been elected speaker with 201 votes — 16 votes more than were expected. Elahi had been up against PML-N's Iqbal Gujar, who received 147 votes ─ 15 less than his party's own strength in the assembly.

The PPP had boycotted the election, with MPA Hassan Murtaza citing the "PML-N's attitude" toward his party as the reason behind the move.

PTI's Dost Mazari had subsequently defeated PML-N's Waris Kalo in the contest for deputy speaker, with Mazari securing 187 votes against Kalo's 159.

The Punjab Assembly Speaker, Elahi, while speaking to media on Sunday, said that he was against the politics of forward blocs.

He had reminded the opposition that they would gain nothing through agitation and had accused the opposition of not walking the talk.

"Hindering democratic process is not a service to democracy," he said.

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