LAHORE: Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman administers the oath to Maryam Nawaz after she was elected chief minister of the province at a ceremony at Governor House, on Monday.—APP
LAHORE: Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman administers the oath to Maryam Nawaz after she was elected chief minister of the province at a ceremony at Governor House, on Monday.—APP

• Sworn in with Nawaz, Shehbaz by her side; new chief minister vows to change fate of province
• Promises inclusive growth, protection for women, better hospitals and policing
• SIC members walk out after speaker denies floor to CM candidate Rana Aftab

LAHORE: Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, achieved a historic milestone by becoming the first woman chief minister of Punjab, on Monday.

In her maiden speech in the Punjab Assembly, she pledged not to ind­ulge in political victimisation and, instead, wou­ld seek the opposition me­m­bers’ positive invol­v­ement in the running of government affairs.

Ms Nawaz secured 220 votes in the 371-member house, amid a boycott by her competitor, Rana Aftab of the PTI-backed Sunni Ittehad Council.

Mr Aftab told the media outside the assembly building that they would not accept this election and would consider moving a court of law against the ‘bulldozing’ of the democratic process.

Ms Nawaz, the ‘rookie’ parliamentarian, will now be faced with the daunting task of overcoming a resilient PTI in opposition, a weakened PML-N-led coalition at the Centre, and an economy in turmoil.

She stepped into politics in 2012, when she was made in charge of PML-N’s election campaign in Lahore for the 2013 polls, which were won by the PML-N.

She was subsequently appointed chairperson of the PM’s Youth Loan Scheme by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif but resigned in 2014 when her posting was challenged in the high court.

Ahead of 2018 polls, she and her father were imprisoned in a corruption case days, before the election but secured bail from a high court after some months, eventually leading to her acquittal in 2022. She was appointed the party’s senior vice-president and, later, chief organiser in 2023.

Terming her win on Monday an honour for each “mother, sister and daughter of the country”, she promised to accept the mandate of all parties. Commenting on the absence of the opposition, which had walked out of the house, she recalled that her party had never left any field open to the government of the time, despite all the victimisation it had suffered.

“The atrocities inflicted by the rivals, in fact, helped me learn a lot and strengthen my resolve,” she said, without naming the former ruling party.

Swearing in Ms Nawaz was sworn in at a “grand but solemn ceremony at the sprawling lawns of the Governor’s House” later on Monday, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

In a break from tradition, the oath-taking was held not inside the Darbar Hall, but on the laws of the sprawling gubernatorial mansion on The Mall. According to APP, the ceremony was moved outdoors to accommodate more guests on the occasion.

The oath was administered by Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman, with Ms Nawaz’s father, Nawaz Sharif seated next to her.

Her uncle and former three-time Punjab CM Shehbaz Sharif was also present. During the oath-taking, Ms Nawaz placed a photo of her late mother, Kalsoom Nawaz, in front of her.

Five-year agenda

Explaining her five-year agenda, she said there would have zero tolerance for corruption and harassment of women, adding that a helpline to get direct feedback from the public would be established instead of relying merely on official reports.

She said reliable data of “deserving people” in Punjab would be collected through a survey to be conducted within three months, and relief goods would be delivered at their doorsteps during Ramazan. Price control committees would be made effective immediately, she added.

For the youth and students, she promised scholarships, fee reimbursement schemes, interest-free loans to set up small businesses, skills training, laptops, electric bikes, as well as a proper school transport system across the province.

In the health sector, she said an air ambulance would be introduced within 10 weeks, free medicine would be provided at all emergency wards in Punjab, a motorway ambulance service would be made functional shortly, the health card scheme of 2015 would be revived, and a state-of-the-art hospital with all major facilities would be established in each city within five years.

Day-care centres would be set up, a safe environment would be provided to working women and minorities, Ms Nawaz said, who also announced digitalising the provision of 43 basic services to be offered to the citizens on one phone call.

After five years, she said, there would be no intercity and intra-city road in shambles, while metro bus service would be introduced in all divisional headquarters.

She promised to cut the police response time to five minutes in case of any eventuality and resolved to establish safe city projects in 18 cities.

She also promised the provision of solar panels on instalments, construction of 100,000 homes for the poor, clearing of garbage within a month, provision of farm tools at a subsidised rate to small farmers, and establishment of agri centres for agriculture loans, quality seeds, and fertilisers. “I promise to leave Punjab in a much better condition than now after [my] five years.”

SIC walkout

Earlier in the day, house proceedings began after a delay of 30 minutes from the scheduled time of 11am.

As Speaker Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan called for ringing the bells for two minutes to begin the process of electing the chief minister, SIC nominee for the coveted slot. Rana Aftab, sought permissioner to take the floor on a point of order.

But the speaker declined, arguing that he has to first complete the official agenda. At this all SIC MPAs, 96 of them, walked out of the house in protest.

The chair then sent Khawaja Salman Rafique, Imran Nazeer, Samiullah, Khalil Tahir Sindhu, and Ali Haider Gilani to bring the protesting MPAs back. On their return, the SIC members again sought floor and on denial by the speaker boycotted the election process and again walked out of the house.

This time, the chair decided to continue the election process even in the absence of the SIC MPAs and asked the assembly staff to close the entrances of the hall after ringing bells for two minutes. The women members were directed to first cast their votes to be followed by the male members.

When all members had cast their votes and gone out to the lobbies, bells were rung again for two minutes before counting of the cast votes.

Before the voting, two MPAs Khizar Hussain Mazari and Tahir Qaisarani took their oath, which was administered by the speaker.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

IMF’s projections
Updated 18 Apr, 2024

IMF’s projections

The problems are well-known and the country is aware of what is needed to stabilise the economy; the challenge is follow-through and implementation.
Hepatitis crisis
18 Apr, 2024

Hepatitis crisis

THE sheer scale of the crisis is staggering. A new WHO report flags Pakistan as the country with the highest number...
Never-ending suffering
18 Apr, 2024

Never-ending suffering

OVER the weekend, the world witnessed an intense spectacle when Iran launched its drone-and-missile barrage against...
Saudi FM’s visit
Updated 17 Apr, 2024

Saudi FM’s visit

The government of Shehbaz Sharif will have to manage a delicate balancing act with Pakistan’s traditional Saudi allies and its Iranian neighbours.
Dharna inquiry
17 Apr, 2024

Dharna inquiry

THE Supreme Court-sanctioned inquiry into the infamous Faizabad dharna of 2017 has turned out to be a damp squib. A...
Future energy
17 Apr, 2024

Future energy

PRIME MINISTER Shehbaz Sharif’s recent directive to the energy sector to curtail Pakistan’s staggering $27bn oil...