After a long, drawn-out legal and political battle, PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz, the son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, on Saturday was finally sworn-in as the Punjab chief minister – hours after Governor Omar Sarfraz Cheema dismissed former provincial chief executive Usman Buzdar’s resignation, saying it was "not constitutionally valid".
The oath of office was administered to him by National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, in accordance with the Lahore High Court’s order, at the Governor House in Lahore.
Federal ministers, members of the Punjab Assembly and other political leaders were present at the ceremony.
The ceremony began with the recitation of the Holy Quran and a naat after which Hamza was administered the oath as the Punjab chief minister, taking over a position held thrice by his father.
The Punjab chief secretary notified that Hamza had assumed the charge of the provincial chief minister’s office.
"Consequent upon the judgement of the Lahore High Court under writ petition No 27186 of 2022, Mr Muhammad Hamza Shahbaz Sharif has taken the oath of the office of the chief ministry of Punjab before speaker, National Assembly on April 30, 2022," the notification read.
The chief secretary also notified that Buzdar had ceased to hold the office.
"Consequent upon assumption of office of chief minister of Punjab by Mr Muhammad Hamza Shahbaz Sharif on April 30, 2022, Mr Usman Ahmed Khan Buzdar, chief minister of Punjab under provision of Article 133 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, has ceased to hold office with immediate effect.”
According to former provincial education minister Murad Raas, Cheema had “restored” Buzdar's cabinet, which even convened for a meeting.
While Hamza’s oath-taking ceremony was under way, Cheema in a tweet asked the top judge to take urgent notice of the “bullying” at the Governor House.
“A fake chief minister's oath is being dramatised in an unconstitutional manner,” he wrote.
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In response to the notification, Cheema later tweeted that he, in his capacity of the governor, had not allowed its issuance for the “appointment of an unconstitutional, fake chief minister”.
“They forcibly and deceitfully put up a drama of the oath-taking, and now they have attempted to prepare a fake notification of it.”
Speaking to the media after the ceremony, Hamza vowed that he would work for the "greater benefit of the people" of Pakistan and Punjab.
He pointed out that the province had remained without a leadership for a month.
"What was the fault of the 120 million people who were deprived of a chief minister?"
He pledged to move forward for the welfare of the people against the "examples of destruction, corruption and bad governance set by the PTI government”.
The new Punjab chief minister said he could not outdo his father in the position, but would seek his guidance.
PML-N Vice President and Hamza’s cousin Maryam Nawaz said they recognised the major challenges confronted by the province, but with hard work and dedication, would provide relief to the people. She added that that people would see the difference.
Hamza is expected to announce his cabinet in the coming 24 to 48 hours. Reportedly, the announcement of the cabinet will be made in two phases. It was said that a dozen ministries would go to coalition partners, which includes the Tareen Group, Aleem Khan and Asad Khokhar groups. Asad Khokhar himself was being considered for a cabinet position. The speaker’s position is also expected to be given to the Tareen Group for which Malik Nouman Ahmed Langrial’s name was doing the rounds for the past three weeks. From independents, Maimanat Mohsin, commonly known as Jugnu Mohsin, was likely to be considered for a cabinet position. The PPP is expected to get three ministries, according to leader Hasan Murtaza. Hasan said, “Their party leadership will decide the names of the ministries.”
Some of the most notable names likely to be considered from the PML-N are Khawaja Salman Raffique, Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan, Khawaja Imran Nazir, Manshaullah Butt, Samiullah Khan, Jahangir Khanzada, Saiful Maluk Khokhar, Rana Mashud, Bilal Yasin and Lt Col Sardar Muhammad Ayub Khan Gadi.
Later in the day, CM Hamza also visited the residence of estranged PTI leader Jahangir Khan Tareen to express his gratitude for his group’s support.
PML-Q leader and Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervaiz Elahi, who had lost the contest for the CM’s slot against Hamza, condemned the ceremony held at the Governor House. He claimed that it was the chief secretary who had broken into the Governor House to organise the ceremony by force.
He added that if they only had 28 days, this crisis could have been averted. “Now, we have a three-pronged crisis in the province.” However, he maintained that in a few days, the situation would be completely changed.
On the directions of the LHC, the contest for the chief minister’s slot was held on April 16. PML-N's Hamza was elected as the Punjab CM by bagging 197 votes of 371 amid chaos that erupted in the provincial assembly, as his rival candidate declared the polls “illegal”.
Acting Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari had announced that Hamza’s rival Elahi had not received a single vote.
A day earlier, LHC judge Jawad Hassan had directed the NA speaker to administer oath to Hamza at 11:30am on Saturday to put an end to the crisis in Punjab.
Earlier, the LHC CJ had passed orders twice. The first was to President Arif Alvi to nominate anyone for administering the oath to Hamza but the order was in vain. The second time, the LHC chief justice had advised the Punjab governor to ensure the swearing-in of Hamza, but the constitutional obligation was not followed.
The PML-N leader for the third time knocked the LHC doors over not being administered his oath. This time, the petitioner had requested the LHC to “nominate any person” for the administration of oath at the Governor House at a specified time calling for the "coercive arm of the state to be set in motion for the implementation of the court orders".