CORRECTS – Pakistan's largest province gets new chief minister


By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Prime Minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party won another crucial political battle on Sunday when it secured the reins of the country's largest province, Punjab.

Punjab, which is one of the four provinces of the country, has the reputation of being a political power base and anyone who controls it is considered to be running the country.

The PTI's little-known Sardar Usman Buzdar was elected as chief minister of the province, defeating his only contender Hamza Shehbaz, who is the son of the former Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and belongs to the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) of the jailed ex-Premier Nawaz Sharif.

Buzdar, who hails from a less-developed southern part of Punjab, secured 186 out of 345 votes compared to his rival Hamza Shehbaz who bagged 159 votes, according to results announced by Speaker of Punjab Assembly, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi. Ten members of the center-left Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had abstained from the vote.

In the July elections, the PML-N had appeared as the single-largest party in Punjab, its traditional stronghold, by securing 129 general seats of the provincial assembly, followed closely by the PTI, which grabbed 123 seats. All independent candidates except two, and PML-Q members threw their weight behind PTI candidate.

Shehbaz Sharif is now set to play the role of opposition leader in the lower house of the parliament, also known as the National Assembly.

PPP's Syed Murad Ali Shah, PTI's Mahmood Khan and Jam Kamal of the newly-formed Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) have already been elected as chief ministers of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and Balochistan provinces, respectively.