Tens of thousands stage anti-corruption protest in Romania

Protesters block a main boulevard during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, on Saturday. (AP)
Updated 21 January 2018
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Tens of thousands stage anti-corruption protest in Romania

BUCHAREST, Romania: Tens of thousands of Romanians on Saturday protested against legislation passed by Parliament which critics say will make it harder to prosecute crime and high-level corruption.
Protesters briefly scuffled with riot police as they massed in Bucharest’s University Square. Protesters shouted: “Thieves, thieves!” and “Resign!” and blew whistles and waved Romanian flags. They then marched toward Parliament.
Protesters of all ages came to vent their anger at the left-wing government, some accompanied by dogs or children.
Architect Tiberiu Calinescu, 30, who was carrying his 4-month-old daughter, said: “I have come here for the future of my daughter,” adding “I want to live in a Romania that is civilized and close to European” standards.
Diana Gradinaru, a 45-year-old economist, said the new legislation could result in “terrible thefts” by high-level officials, citing legislation that meant video and audio recordings could no longer be used as evidence in prosecutions.
There were smaller protests in the cities of Cluj, Timisoara, Constanta, Bacau, Sibiu and Iasi. Protesters began arriving earlier in the capital by train from other Romanian cities and were greeted by people waving Romanian flags.
Last year, Romania saw the biggest protests since communism ended after the left-wing government tried to decriminalize official misconduct.
Parliament last month approved amendments to laws that many say will lead to a backsliding on its anti-corruption fight.
Prime Minister-designate Viorica Dancila supports revamping the judicial system. She is an ally of Liviu Dragnea, chairman of the Social Democracy Party, who can’t be premier due to a conviction for vote-rigging.
President Klaus Iohannis, a critic of the amendments, needs to sign them into law. On Friday, he wrote to the Constitutional Court saying one amendment that would allow public officials to own businesses “diminished the standards of integrity” expected from public officials.


Usman Buzdar becomes Punjab chief minister

Updated 19 August 2018
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Usman Buzdar becomes Punjab chief minister

  • PTI candidate bags 186 votes while PML-N secures 159
  • Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) was in power in Punjab for past 10 years

LAHORE: Ending the decade-long dominance of the Sharif family, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) nominee, Sardar Usman Buzdar, has been elected chief minister of Punjab, the biggest province in the country.

In the election on Sunday in the Punjab Assembly, Usman Buzdar secured 186 votes — the minimum required number to become the leader of the House consisting of 371 members.

His rival, Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, son of former three-time Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif, could bag only 159 votes.

The seven members of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) abstained from the process.

The PML-Q legislators and Rah-e-Haq party members also voted for the PTI candidate.

The win of the PTI nominee, Sardar Usman Buzdar, has ended the 30-year supremacy of the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) in the political realm of the province.

The PML-N ruled the province from 1988 to 1990 when the elder Sharif, Mian Nawaz Sharif, served as the chief minister and gave a tough time to his political rival, the late Benazir Bhutto, who was then prime minister.

The PML-N then formed the government in the province in 1993 and Ghulam Hyder Wyne was the party nominee for the slot of chief minister.

The PML-N again gained power in 1997 and the younger Sharif, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, became chief minister of the province.

The ruled continued until the bloodless coup of Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

During Gen. Musharraf’s regime, Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi served as the chief minister from 2002 to 2007.

PML-N regained its glory in the 2008 elections and Mian Shahbaz Sharif became the chief minister. The rule continued for two consecutive terms (2008-20013 and 2013-18) — 10 years.

In the 2018 election, though, the PML-N emerged as the single largest party in the province by securing 129 seats but the number was not enough to form the government and on Sunday PTI candidate Buzdar ended their supremacy in Punjab politics.

The Punjab chief minister-elect, Usman Buzdar, comes from the downtrodden area of South Punjab and holds a master’s degree in political science and a law degree from the Bahauddin Zakaria University, Multan.

His father, Sardar Fateh Mohammed Buzdar, was a member of General Ziaul Haq’s cabinet known as “Majlis-e-Shoora” in 1983 and was elected MPA as an independent candidate in 1985.

He again won the provincial assembly seat in the 2002 and 2008 elections.

In 2013, son Usman Buzdar replaced father, Fateh Mohammed Buzdar, to contest a provincial assembly seat as a PML-N candidate and lost.

Buzdar, however, served as the Nazim of Tribal Area Tehsil of Dera Ghazi Khan district for two terms in Gen. Musharraf’s era.

His career was tarnished with corruption and he was charged as a reference containing allegations of making ghost appointments was made against him.

However, Buzdar’s brother says the National Accountability Bureau cleared him from all charges after investigations.

During the 1998 local government elections, in a bloody clash between two political rival groups, one of them led by Buzdar family, six people were killed.

Father and son (Fateh Mohammed Buzdar and Usman Buzdar) were not present on the scene but the opponents nominated them in the police report on the allegations of abetment.

They were exonerated in the police Investigations but their opponents did not accept it.

Following the tribal traditions, a jirga (tribal council) levied a fine of 6.5 million Pakistani rupees ($52,700) on the Buzdar clan and the money was paid to their rivals by the Buzdars.

The PTI ranks criticized the nomination of Buzdar but party chairman Imran Khan himself defended him, saying that the chosen chief minister for Punjab comes from one of the most underdeveloped areas of the province, where people had neither clean drinking water nor an uninterrupted supply of electricity.

Khan said in his video message that Buzdar was the only parliamentarian “whose home had no electricity,” and the PTI chief hoped he would work honestly and implement his party’s vision.

Buzdar was a member of the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam), a party led by Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain, before joining the PML-N in 2013.

He left the PML-N in May 2018 and became a part of Sooba Janobi Punjab Mohaz (South Punjab Province Front).

The whole group later merged in the PTI and Buzdar became a player of Imran Khan and won PP-286 (DG Khan) with more than 26,000 votes on a PTI ticket.

Soon after the announcement of his success, the PML-N legislators, wearing black armbands, chanted slogans against him — “Killer chief minister unacceptable and give respect to vote.”

The protest continued for 20 minutes.

The chief minister-elect, in his maiden address in the assembly, said his only merit is that he belongs to the most deprived area of the province and he vowed to carry forward the mission of Imran Khan and Quaid-e-Azam.

“My priority is to break the status quo, elimination of corruption, strengthening of institutions and local bodies and evolve the good governance,” Buzdar said.

Speaking on the occasion, Hamza Shahbaz, who lost the election, said that the mandate of the people had been stolen in the July 25 elections.

“We are here with heavy hearts and becoming part of the process only because we want the process of democracy to continue,” Hamza said.

He demanded a parliamentary commission to probe the irregularities of the electoral process and submit its recommendations in 30 days.