LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate Sardar Usman Buzdar was elected chief minister of Punjab on Sunday. Buzdar received 186 votes to defeat Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) nominee Hamza Shehbaz, who got 159 votes. Three hundred and forty-five of the total 354 MPAs of the Punjab Assembly exercised their right to elect leader of the house. PML-N MPAs wore black armbands in protest against alleged rigging in the July 25 election. They also registered their protest by chanting slogans. PPP lawmakers did not cast their votes. 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. Addressing Punjab Assembly following his election as chief minister, Buzdar vowed to resolve problems plaguing the province. “We will develop the underdeveloped areas of Punjab and sustain the developed regions,” he said, adding that the focus would remain on good governance, elimination of corruption, and strengthening of institutions and local bodies. “We will break the status quo,” he vowed, and promised to take Quaid-e-Azam and PM Imran Khan’s vision forward. The newly elected chief minister said he would bring the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa model of governance to Punjab. “Every MPA would be like a chief minister in his constituency.” Buzdar 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,” he said, in response to criticism of his capability to lead the house. In his concluding remarks, Buzdar thanked PM Imran Khan for giving him the opportunity to serve the province, and invited positive suggestions from the opposition for the betterment of the province and its people. The defeated candidate, Hamza Shahbaz, while appreciating the democratic transition from PML-N to PTI, said, “The government’s mandate is marred by rigging. The Election Commission of Pakistan was extraordinarily empowered. It had enormous powers. The Rs 21 billion spent on the election was taxpayers’ money. The Results Transmission System did not go down. Actually, it was an ambush on democracy.” He 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 found in gutters and the party’s political agents were locked up inside polling stations on the 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 Quaid-i-Azam.” Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulated Sardar Usman Buzdar on his election as the chief minister of Punjab. The prime minister also felicitated the parliamentary party of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and its allies, a PM Office statement said. The election of Buzdar has heralded the onset of a new era in Punjab, the prime minister remarked. Published in Daily Times, August 20th 2018.