Haji Gulbar Khan, an estranged member of the PTI, was elected as the chief minister for Gilgit Baltistan on Thursday.
His election to the role comes after PTI’s Khalid Khurshid Khan was disqualified as the chief minister over a fake degree earlier this month.
According to state-run Radio Pakistan, Gulbar secured 19 out of 20 votes while Raja Azam Khan, who had been endorsed by Khurshid as his successor, boycotted the election.
Javed Ali Manwa, who was leading one of the three forward blocs within the PTI, also boycotted the polls along with Muhammad Zakria Maqpoon, Radio Pakistan stated.
According to a Dawn.com correspondent, when the assembly session began at around 12:30pm, speaker Nazir Ahmed asked all those in favour of Gulbar to stand on one side.
Subsequently, 19 of the 20 members present there did so, expressing their support for Gulbar. Out of them, three belonged to the PML-N, three to the PPP and one to the JUI-F.
Upon gathering 19 votes, the speaker then announced Gulbar as Leader of the House.
Speaking to the house after his election, he thanked fellow assembly members for supporting him despite his ill health. He also expressed his commitment to work for the peace and prosperity of the region.
Belonging to the Diamer district, Gulbar was leading a forward bloc within the PTI and had previously declared he would contest for the position independently.
Gulbar had served as the GB health minister during the previous PTI government as well as in 2010-2011 as a Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) member.
According to the GB assembly’s website, Gulbar took oath as its member on Nov 15, 2020 from the GBA-18 Diamer-IV constituency of the Darel district.
Meanwhile, the PTI, through its Central Media Department, issued a statement condemning the “robbery of public mandate in Gilgit-Baltistan in broad daylight”.
It said that by depriving a party that has 22 seats out of the 33-member assembly of the right to rule, “the faces of democracy and Constitution have been slapped”.
Warning that the results of “violating the sanctity of the vote would be disastrous”, the PTI vowed it will take back the mandate that was “forcefully grabbed” from them.
Ahead of the election, three forward blocs had emerged within the PTI, which were led by Gulbar, Manwa and Azam.
Opposition leader in the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly Advocate Amjad Hussain had also resigned from his assembly membership and announced boycotting the elections.
In the 32-member house, the PTI has 19 members, the PPP four, the PML-N three and the Muttahida Wahdat-i-Muslimeen three as well, while the JUI-F and Islam Tehreek Pakistan have one each, along with one independent candidate.
Initially, opposition parties had decided to nominate a joint candidate with the support of estranged PTI members and claimed the support of the required 17 members.
The authority to decide the candidate from any opposition party member was given to the central leaderships of the PPP, the PML-N, and the JUI-F.
Prime Minister’s Adviser on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira had held meetings on Tuesday with leaders of different political and religious parties to evolve a consensus to form a coalition government in the region.
He had tried to convince PPP’s Hussain and Shahzad Agha to withdraw their resignations, which they had presented to the GB assembly speaker in protest against the nomination of Gulbar as a candidate for the chief minister post.
Prior to that, a Dawn report had cited sources as saying that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, in consultation with the PPP and had nominated Gulbar for the coveted role.