LAHORE: Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s friendly gestures during the oath taking of Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood as Punjab governor here on Tuesday indicated an end to rivalry between the two top offices witnessed over the past four years.
The chief minister attended the ceremony along with members of his cabinet and senior PML-N leaders, including Sardar Zulfiqar Khosa, Raja Ashfaq Sarwar and Punjab Assembly Speaker Rana Iqbal. Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial of Lahore High Court administered the oath.
After the oath-taking ceremony, Mr Sharif felicitated the new governor and held a one-to-one meeting with him. They pledged to establish “the best working relationship to run the affairs of the province”.
The only ‘uneasy’ moments for Mr Sharif at the Governor’s House were when Pakistan People’s Party workers started shouted slogans like “Jeay Bhutto” and “Ik Zardari sab par bhari” as he entered the hall along with Makhdoom Mehmood. Even after the oath taking, the PPP workers continued sloganeering that appeared to irk the PML-N men, especially the chief minister. A large number of people at the ceremony were from the Rahimyar Khan constituency from where Mr Mehmood was elected to the provincial assembly on PML-Functional ticket in the last election.
Prominent among the PPP leaders who attended the ceremony were Abdul Qadir Gilani, Raja Riaz, Jahangir Badar, Manzoor Wattoo, Tanvir Ashraf Kaira, Samina Ghurki, Aslam Gill, Fawad Chaudhry, Abdul Qadir Shaheen, Aurangzeb Burki and Omar Sharif Bokhari.
Interestingly, Punjab PML-Q president and Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi was not there. Chaudhry Shafaat Husain and Imran Masood represented the Q-League.
A day earlier, Mr Mehmood had called on the Chaudhrys of Gujrat at their residence and invited them to the ceremony.
A PML-Q insider said Chaudhry Elahi had decided not to attend the ceremony apparently to avoid Mr Sharif.
PML-Q information secretary Senator Kamil Ali Agha told Dawn that the deputy prime minister did not attend the ceremony because he was going to perform Umrah.
Humayun Akhtar, Wasim Akhtar and Pir Ijaz Hashmi represented the PML-Likeminded, Jamaat-i-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan.
As the governor did not say anything to welcome PPP workers at the Governor’s House, Punjab PPP president Manzoor Wattoo said at a press conference after the ceremony that they were not barred from coming there.
“The doors of Governor’s House are open for jialas. The governor is a political person and political activities at the Governor’s House will continue,” he said.
Unlike the oath-taking ceremonies of the late Salmaan Taseer and Latif Khosa, portraits of PPP leaders were not displayed which angered some diehard party activists.
After the ceremony, Governor Mehmood told reporters that an understanding between the PPP and PML-N was the need of the hour.
“I have good relations with the Punjab government and my appointment will benefit the province,” he said.
“As we have to move towards the general election, I want the leader of the house in the Punjab Assembly to begin a consultative process for the interim government.”
Mr Mehmood thanked President Asif Zardari and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto for reposing trust in him.
“I will try to come up to their expectations. My appointment will result in improving the relations between the PPP and PML-N,” he said, adding his appointment had nothing to do with any backdoor diplomacy or understanding.
Replying to a question, he said he would call on PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif after meeting President Zardari and PPP leader Faryal Talpur.
He said he would request the provincial government to focus on providing civic, health and education facilities to people.
The governor also paid tribute to the late Benazir Bhutto. He said he would not take salary or perks because of the province’s financial constraints.
Replying to a question, the governor said Tehrik Minhajul Quran leader Dr Tahirul Qadri should not have put his followers to test (by giving a deadline for a march on Islamabad).
He also said he would try to get implemented the provincial and national assemblies’ resolutions on creation of new provinces in Punjab.