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LAHORE: PML-N’s Hamza Shahbaz has been appointed as opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly, creating a new chapter in the country’s political history as his father Shahbaz Sharif has already been named for the same position in the National Assembly.

Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvaiz Elahi issued notification for the appointment of Mr Hamza here on Thursday. In a departure from the convention, the notification was issued after a delay of around two weeks.

Usually, the opposition leader is notified soon after election of the leader of the house or the chief minister, who in this case was elected on Aug 19.

Assembly authorities had suspected that some of the signatures were bogus on the requisition submitted by the PML-N MPAs on Aug 24 to show that Hamza enjoyed support of a majority of the opposition lawmakers and thus qualified for the opposition leader’s slot.

The authorities had claimed that it seemed one person had signed for many other MPAs on the requisition and invited the legislators whose signatures were suspicious in person to verify their consent.

The PML-N protested against the objection. However, the MPAs concerned appeared before the assembly staff to verify their signatures on Aug 29. The party had threatened that it would resort to protest if the notification was not issued within two days.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Speaker Mr Elahi visited the under-construction building of the assembly. They were briefed about the work yet to be done on the new structure.

The duo inspected different sections of the building, including the main hall that would be used for holding the assembly sessions.

The chief minister directed that the construction work should be completed at the earliest. He regretted that funds were not allocated for the construction of the building during the previous tenure.

Talking to the media, Mr Buzdar said the Punjab Assembly building was 90-year old and the number of MPAs had increased manifold. He said the old structure proved to be insufficient for continuing with the legislative work.

He said the incumbent government would allocate funds for the project on priority basis so that the next budget session could be held in the new building.

Holding former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif responsible for the delay in completion of the project, Mr Elahi said it resulted in increase in its cost to the tune of Rs3 billion. He suggested the amount should be recovered from the former chief minister.

He lamented that funds were not released even for the construction of the mosque on the assembly premises.

The chief minister and the speaker also planted saplings outside the under-construction building and prayed for the success of the Plant for Pakistan campaign.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2018