PESHAWAR: As Mahmood Khan was elected as the new chief minister of the province, he sought to quash claims of the opposition that ‘hidden hands’ were involved in the July 25 general elections and attempted to bridge differences with the opposition by offering to open probes into contentious constituencies, including his own.
“I am ready to open my constituency. People trusted us and voted for us,” stated Mahmood after the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Assembly on Thursday voted him in as the next provincial chief minister.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) member from Swat had received 77 votes, while the opposition’s candidate for the slot, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal’s (MMA) Mian Nisar Gul could only garner 33 votes.
In his speech, Mahmood defended the massive two-thirds majority won by his party in the general elections, stating that no ‘third hand’ was involved. Rather, he termed the party’s victory in K-P, Punjab and the centre the result of PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s struggle for the past 23 years.
This is why, he said, the people had put their trust in PTI candidates and had elected them.
Taking a cue from his party chief, as Mahmood rose to speak, he cast aside a written speech and pulled a different paper with pointers listed on it and started speaking extempore.
“We will protect the rights of minorities and will invest in humans,” he said sharing his agenda for government.
He raised the slogan of “Say no to corruption” (originally promoted by the National Accountability Bureau) and announced to start a war against corruption.
“Education, health and social sector will be our top priority, just like our last government,” he outlined, adding that priority will also be accorded to select mega development projects in the province including the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project in Peshawar and the Swat Expressway.
With the K-P government relying on international donors for the past five years, especially for major projects, Mahmood said that his admiration will try to enhance their sources of revenue generation.
“We will work on a war footing on revenue generation,” he said.
The new chief minister also pointed out that the historic merger of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with the settled areas — approved by the last PTI government as its last official act before the elections — would prove to be a major challenge for them and sought the support of the opposition parties to resolve issues in the tribal districts as per the wishes of the locals.
With the PTI leading the government in the National Assembly, Mahmood said that his administration will work to secure K-P’s resource share from the centre.
Earlier, the assembly started at its scheduled time of 11am. However, many lawmakers failed to make it on time.
K-P Assembly Speaker Mushtaq Ghani, who was elected on Wednesday, decided to wait for five minutes.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawmaker Nighat Orakzai protested against the wait and asked the speaker to shut the doors and start the voting process, pointing out how she was not afforded the same luxury during the elections for the K-P speaker and deputy and was barred from voting owing to the fact that she arrived too late.
Ghani, though, waited for the latecomers.
When 110 members had gathered in the house, Ghani started administering the oath to PTI lawmaker Azizullah Gran of Swat. He had failed to take oath on Monday.
Mahmood was elected as the chief minister through the ‘division of the house’ method with those in favour of one candidate could move to lobby-1 to indicate their vote while those in favour of the other candidate can move to lobby-2 to indicate their vote.
As many as 77 lawmakers subsequently chose to gravitate to lobby-1 to vote Mahmood as the new chief minister.
Criticism and congratulations
After Mahmood was announced as the new chief minister, the opposition parties assured him of their support but they also lashed out at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for failing to hold free and fair elections.
Former K-P chief minister Akram Khan Durrani speech congratulated Mahmood Khan and assured him of the opposition’s support in every matter of the province and public interest.
Durrani however, criticized the general elections calling it controversial.
“This election has got controversial across the country and every political party, regardless of whether it was in the opposition or in government, is crying about rigging,” he said, adding that the failure of the expensive Result Transmission System (STS) and CCTV cameras without catching anything was strange and beyond understanding.
He clarified that he was not accusing the PTI of rigging the elections, rather he pointed his finger at the institutions who were responsible for conducting the elections in a transparent manner.
Awami National Party (ANP) parliamentary leader in the house Sardar Hussain Babak was also critical of those institutions tasked with conducting the elections.
He said that some forces were against democracy in the country for the past 71 years “They [undemocratic forces] defeated Fatima Jinnah, the sister of the father of the nation and gave victory to a dictator,” he said pointing towards a picture of Quaid-e-Azam put-up on the wall over the speaker’s chair.
He said the National Database Regulatory Authority (NADRA) and the ECP have to provide an explanation why a specific party’s workers were given an application through which they would get the data of family members of a voter just by putting the voter’s name and CNIC number.
Babak lamented how the Pashtun leadership including Sirajul Haq, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, Asfandyar Wali Khan, Aftab Khan Sherpao and Mehmood Khan Achakzai were all ousted from the parliament, alleging that a conspiracy was afoot.
He added that those who somehow won their seats had more power than those anti-democratic forces who rigged the elections.
“Someone here said PTI’s young supporters defeated senior politicians and leaders. It is not the youngsters who defeated the senior politicians rather those forces defeated them who spent billions of rupees to do so,” he said.
This prompted young lawmakers to start protesting in the house.
Babak, though, told them to wait for their turn and listen to what he had to say with patience as per the assembly rules.
He added that these force had made the leader of a political party (pointing towards Imran) a hero in the past five years while all the leaders of the remaining political parties in the country were turned into zeros.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2018.