LAHORE: Hamza Shehbaz, the son of Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, on Saturday took oath as the chief minister of Punjab province, a day after he was re-elected to the post by just three votes amidst high drama that sparked protests in the country and prompted the rival candidate to move the Supreme Court.
Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman administered the oath to Hamza, 47.
The run-off election for the post of Punjab chief minister was held in the Punjab Assembly on Friday, in line with the instructions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Hamza was declared the winner in the election though his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party did not have a majority in the Assembly after key by-elections were held on July 17.
Hamza managed to retain the post of Punjab Chief Minister by the barest of margins after Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari rejected 10 votes of his rival candidate Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi's party Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), an ally of ousted prime minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), citing Article 63-A of the Constitution.
In the 368-member Punjab Assembly, Hamza's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) received 179 votes, while Elahi's party garnered 176 votes.
Ten votes of Elahi's PML-Q were not counted on the pretext that they had violated the orders of their party chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.
Mazari said that as party chief Hussain's instruction to PML-Q members to vote for Hamza instead of Elahi held greater sway.
"I give a ruling to reject 10 votes of PML-Q as its chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has written me a letter declaring that his party lawmakers should not vote for the PTI-PMLQ candidate. I had spoken to Shujaat by phone and he confirmed that it is his letter," Mazari said, adding that Hamza had retained the spot of Punjab province Chief Minister by three votes.
The PTI-PMLQ lawmakers protested the ruling of the deputy speaker. It is the second time that Hamza beat Elahi in the contest for the Punjab Chief Minister.
The last time he had secured victory on April 16, his oath-taking had been delayed for days with the then-governor, Omar Sarfaraz Cheema, refusing to administer the oath to him.
Eventually, National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf administered the oath to him on April 30, following the Lahore High Court's directives.
Following Mazari's decision to disregard the 10 votes of PML-Q members "a move that allowed Hamza to retain his post as the chief minister of Punjab" PTI said that it would approach the Supreme Court to challenge the decision.
Countrywide demonstrations were held late Friday night across Pakistan by the supporters of ousted Khan against what they called the "illegal" election of the chief minister.
Massive protests were witnessed in Lahore, some other parts of Punjab province, Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar against the PMLN and PPP leadership for manipulating the CM election. Women and children were also among the protesters.
Elahi on Saturday challenged the Deputy Speaker's controversial ruling in the Supreme Court which admitted his petition and issued notices to Mazari and Hamza. PTI chairman Khan expressed his shock over Hamza's win, saying he expects that the Supreme Court will do justice and take action against those who have stolen the PTI mandate.
"I am in shock at what happened in the Punjab Assembly. When PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari reached Lahore ahead of the CM election we knew that he had to play a game he had been playing for the last 30 years -- buy democracy through black money, in which he is an expert," he said.
"The way goats and sheep are sold, the same way Members of Parliament were sold in the no-confidence motion against me and now in the Punjab CM poll," Khan said.
Khan also urged the people including the youth to hold peaceful protests across the country.
"Register your protest. You have to tell (them) that we are humans and not sheep. Tell them that you won't let these dacoits steal the mandate of the public," the former premier said.
"I urge the Supreme Court that things are clear in front of you. I have done jihad against Zardari and Sharifs for years. When I was prime minister, I was pressured to give them NRO (clean chit) but I refused categorically," he said.
PTI senior leader Asad Umar said all eyes are on the Supreme Court to do justice.
"The whole nation is seeing what the court decides in this case. If an otherwise decision comes then the people of this country will give their verdict," he said.